Three Back-to-School Steps For Your Child’s Health

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]By: Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.[/avatar]As a parent of school-aged children, I know that August is a hectic month: shopping for supplies, finishing summer reading, and coordinating drop-off and pick-up schedules are just a few items on our to-do list. As a Primary Care Physician, I also know that ensuring your child is healthy and ready to learn is just as important as notebooks and a backpack.


Take these final weeks of summer to ensure your child’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccines can prevent infectious diseases such as whooping cough, chickenpox, and the flu that spread easily in schools. New York State law requires that schools check students’ immunization records and mandates vaccination against eight illnesses for New York City public school students.

A 2015 WNYC analysis noted that, while most kids in New York City’s public-school system were up to date on vaccines, more than 17,000 were not. According to the study, schools with the lowest vaccination rates tend to serve immigrant populations, which means these children are more susceptible to preventable infectious diseases and are also at risk of being turned away from attending school.

Immunization records can be accessed at no cost through the New York State Citywide Immunization Registry (CIR).

Worried about vaccinations? Don’t be. According to the National Public Health Information Coalition, the United States currently has “the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history,” which is thoroughly tested and carefully monitored.

Asthma, allergies, and medications

Make sure your child’s teacher and school nurse are aware if your child has a chronic health condition, food allergy, or takes medication. If your child has asthma, for example, it is important that your child, his or her teacher, and the school nurse have an up-to-date Asthma Action Plan. ACP has easy-to-follow advice and official forms in our All About Asthma brochure. With proper instructions from your doctor, a school nurse can give your child medication to control an asthma attack during school hours.

Food as medicine

Help ensure your child has a healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch. As more children in our communities become overweight, parents are the first line of defense in encouraging healthier eating habits. Avoid packaged foods that are full of salt, sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Be careful about portion size. Encourage your child to drink water rather than sugary soda and juice. Check out ACP’s DASH nutrition plan for tips. New York City schools provide free breakfast and affordable lunches.

An annual wellness visit is a must for every child. ACP’s network of neighborhood physicians are trained to deliver high-quality, culturally sensitive, patient-centered care. Any visit to the doctor is an opportunity to ask about vaccinations.