Add a Trip to the Doctor to Your Back-to-School List

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Immunizations and physicals required for school

Many parents don’t realize or forget their child will need immunizations before starting school; they may also need a sports physical to be able to play on a school team. To beat the last-minute rush, many pediatricians and family practice physicians recommend you schedule appointments well in advance. In Utah, unless you have an exemption, immunizations are required before kids enter pre-school, kindergarten and seventh grade.

Scheduling a check-up before school starts also helps you make sure your child has any current prescriptions they may need. Don’t forget to come back for an annual flu vaccine in September.

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Vaccines required by the Utah Department of Health for children enrolled in early childhood programs:

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTaP/DT)
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • Polio
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Pneumococcal

Vaccines required by the Utah Department of Health for students entering kindergarten:

  • 5 DTaP/DT
  • 4 Polio
  • 2 Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • 3 Hepatitis B
  • 2 Hepatitis A
  • 2 Varicella (Chickenpox) - history of disease is acceptable, parent must sign verification statement.

Vaccines required by the Utah Department of Health for students entering seventh grade:

  • 1 Tdap
  • 3 Hepatitis B
  • 2 Varicella (Chickenpox) – history of disease is acceptable, parent must sign verification statement
  • 1 Meningococcal

HPV vaccine is recommended for young teens to protect against sexually transmitted infections that can cause cancer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV infections. HPV is a very common virus; about one in four people are currently infected in the United States, including teens. HPV infections can cause certain cancers and other diseases such as

  • Cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women
  • Cancers of the penis in men
  • Cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.

HPV is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you’ve had sex with only one person.

Current CDC recommendations for HPV vaccine

(as of Oct. 19, 2016)

  • 11- to 12-year-olds should receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart.
  • Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, will need three doses of HPV.

“Even if your child isn’t currently sexually active, the HPV vaccine protects them against future partners who may be carriers of the HPV virus,” says Kristina McKinley, MD a pediatric hospitalist at Intermountain Riverton Hospital in Riverton, UT.  “Starting the HPV vaccination by age 12 is prudent because your child will be protected earlier and will only need two shots instead of three.” Dr. McKinley also offers the following tips for parents with children who are starting school.

Six things a pediatrician recommends to ease the transition from summer fun to a school schedule:

  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep
  • Make sure your child eats breakfast and lunch
  • Help your child dress appropriately for the weather, especially if they walk or bike to school. Be prepared for weather changes.
  • Have your child pack a water bottle to stay hydrated
  • Make sure your child takes any necessary medication before school. Fill out required paperwork if medication is needed during school.
  • Make sure backpacks aren’t too heavy

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How much sleep do children and teens need?

“Many children are very tired the first week of school because they haven’t adjusted their summer sleep habits to match their school schedule,” says Dr. McKinley.

She suggests parents move bedtime up 15 minutes earlier each night, starting about two weeks before school starts. She recommends kindergarteners get 10-13 hours of sleep per night, elementary and middle school students get 9-13, and high school students get 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

“Poor sleep habits can lead to problems paying attention, poor test scores, behavioral problems and depression,” she says.

Is breakfast important?

“Children who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to have low energy, poor concentration, and a depressed mood, which means they won’t do as well at school,” says Dr. McKinley.

How much can children carry in their backpacks?

“Backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 15 percent of a child’s body weight,” she says. For example, if your child weighs 60 pounds, their backpack shouldn’t weigh more than nine pounds. Use rolling backpacks for heavier loads.

Dr. McKinley recommends parents make sure weight is distributed evenly in the backpack and ensure the child wears the backpack so it fits snugly against the back. Shoulder straps should be padded and worn on both shoulders.

Stay healthy once school starts:

  • Teach your children to wash their hands properly at home, school and immediately after they get home from school.

Directions from the CDC for proper handwashing:

Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather hands by rubbing them together with soap. Be sure to lather backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds.

  • Keep sick children home if they have a fever, diarrhea, active cough or are contagious.

Watch for symptoms that don’t get better. Call your doctor with questions. Schedule an appointment if recommended.