Back-to-School Season Brings These Common Ailments

Students need their parents' help, not only with homework but also with staying healthy

At the beginning of a new school year, parents look forward to a comfortable routine in which their child’s boundless energy is directed by their teachers and friends for five full days a week. There are, however, some challenges that arise as summer turns to fall, and they are not all academic.

“There are some common ailments that I see in my office each fall,” says pediatrician Melissa A. Behm. “Along with colds, kids often come in with asthma exacerbations, strep throat, and stomach bugs.”

These common illnesses also have a common denominator: germs. Colds and asthma exacerbations can be caused or worsened by viral and bacterial infections of the upper respiratory tract. Strep throat is caused by bacteria that are prevalent in the nose and throat, and gastroenteritis, also known as stomach bug, is most often caused by a virus.

“Germs are how illnesses are shared,” Behm says. “Parents therefore need to teach, and be examples of, good hand washing and use of hand sanitizer. Children also need to learn not only to cover their cough but cough into their elbows instead of their hands.”

Other concerns during the back-to-school season include stress, sleep, and, for some of the more athletic children, sports injury.

“Injuries happen, which is why appropriate safety equipment is important,” Behm says. “It’s also why sports physicals are important - they are a chance to bring up any old injuries and discuss them with your pediatrician.”

All children, no matter their academic or athletic level, are subject to stress. Dr. Behm believes that a set routine at home helps children tolerate the inevitable changes they face at school.

“A new grade, new classmates, new teachers – these can be stressful for kids,” Behm says. “Along with keeping the routine at home the same, parents can reassure their child by reminding them how well they overcame the previous year’s challenges, which were new at the time.”

Another factor that affects not just stress but also academic performance and overall health is sleep. Dr. Behm believes one of the best ways to ensure proper sleep is to start a back-to-school schedule before going back to school.

“I would encourage families to start going to bed early and waking up early about two weeks before school starts,” Behm says. “This makes the transition easier on parents and kids alike.”

Getting a physical

Most schools require updated immunization records and documentation that a student has received a physical each year before the school year starts. But a physical is more than just a school assignment. It’s also a chance for pediatricians to assess the overall health—physical, emotional, and social—of your child.

“If we see your child each year for a check-up, we are more likely to pick up on subtle changes that may need to be addressed,” says Dr. Behm. “We can also discuss with you and your child any physical changes that may occur over the next year, and help your child feel more confident and prepared."

“Yearly physicals help us to reconnect,” says Behm, “and form a stronger relationship with your child and your family.

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