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From Kindergarten to College, Go Back to School in Better Health

SEATTLE, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether your kids are heading back to grade school, high school or college, they'll be facing a slew of health risks - many of which can be minimized with a little planning and prevention. Physicians at The Polyclinic in Seattle recommend some simple steps to keeping kids healthy and safe:

Get your kids immunized for childhood diseases

Vaccines are available for many serious childhood illnesses like chicken pox, measles, polio and Hepatitis B, and most schools require these immunizations. A number of vaccinations are recommended for children by age two, followed by booster shots later on - check with your doctor to see if your child is up-to-date. You can find the immunization schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics at

Avoid the flu, times two

This year more than ever, doctors strongly recommend flu shots for kids and adults alike. Because of the spread of H1N1 flu (often referred to as "swine flu"), everyone needs to get two different vaccines - one for the regular seasonal flu, and an additional shot for the H1N1 flu. Vaccinating your child and yourself not only helps you avoid getting sick - it also protects the people around you and prevents the spread at schools and work. Colleges have been hard-hit already, so don't forget about having your older children vaccinated as well. More information on flu vaccinations is available from the Washington State Department of Health at:

Keep germs and viruses at bay

Teach your kids how to avoid exposure to colds, flu and infections by washing their hands regularly, using hand sanitizer, and keeping their hands away from their mouths and noses. They can also do their part to prevent the spread of germs by covering their mouths with a sleeve when they cough or sneeze (not their hand).

Surviving grade school

Crowded classrooms and playground contact make it hard to avoid grade school perils like pink eye and head lice, but you can minimize your child's exposure.

Head lice - Remind your kids not to share hats, combs and coats, and keep an eye on your child's hair for indications of head lice. If your child has an itchy scalp, use a magnifying glass to look for tiny brown or white eggs, called nits, which stick to the shaft of hair. There are a number of over-the-counter and natural treatments available, but persistence is the key to eliminating them altogether.

Pink eye - Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a highly contagious virus that affects the eyes. It can be identified through redness, eye swelling, itching and excessive discharge from the eye. It can be spread easily from one eye to the other and from child to child. Hand washing is the best way to avoid pink eye and its spread.

Safety - Parents have plenty to worry about when it comes to safety for their young children, so you need to be vigilant about reminding kids about pedestrian safety, bike safety, and stranger danger. Walk your child's route to school or the bus stop the first few days to point out traffic risks and practice safe street crossing.

Backpack overload - Check your child's backpack and try to minimize weight loads. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that backpacks not exceed 10 - 20% of the child's weight, as they can cause injury to muscles and joints, leading to posture problems and pain in the back, neck and shoulders. Be sure the weight is distributed evenly and that straps are wide and padded, and consider a rolling pack as a safer choice.

Special health issues - If your child has special needs - serious food allergies, diabetes, epilepsy or other health conditions - be sure that the teacher and other school staff know what to do on a daily basis or in case of an emergency. If medications or other supplies are needed, work with the school's health team and administration to be sure they'll have everything on hand.

New challenges for high schoolers

Not only are high school aged kids going through physical changes - they're also facing new emotional and social challenges that can affect their physical and mental well being. Issues like drug and alcohol use, depression, and choices about sexual activity may be overwhelming for some kids. Most schools have programs to help both kids and parents deal with these important decisions - take advantage of them.

Get a good night's sleep. The National Institutes for Health advise parents to be sure their kids get at least nine hours of sleep in order to function - often a challenge for high schoolers with busier homework and social schedules. To help your kids get the sleep they need, they recommend some simple steps like establishing a regular bedtime, eliminating distractions in the child's room, avoiding big meals close to bedtime, and avoiding caffeine for six hours before bed.

A time of transition for college-aged kids

College-aged students often find themselves caught between childhood and adulthood - even when it comes to their health care. Oftentimes they've seen only their pediatrician, and as they "age out" of pediatric care, they need to find a new doctor. Some rely on their parents' doctors, but if they're away at school, they can't wait for a break to come back home and see the doctor. That may leave them relying on the campus clinic which may not have comprehensive care. Think about having your college-aged kids find a primary care doctor (internal medicine or family medicine) where they attend school. Establishing a relationship with a primary care doctor in early adulthood is a good start on a lifelong pattern of caring for oneself.

About The Polyclinic

The Polyclinic is made up of more than 150 physicians, including pediatricians, internal medicine, family medicine, OB/GYN, oncology and hematology and 23 additional medical and surgical specialties. Since its inception in 1917, The Polyclinic's mission has been to promote the health of its patients through high-quality, comprehensive and personalized care. For more information, visit

SOURCE The Polyclinic
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