Back to school: Health and nutrition tips for students

Amanda Aguilar Image
Thursday, August 4, 2022
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We spoke to Valley Children's about how keeping a child healthy can ultimately result in classroom success.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Summer break has come and gone, and now it's time to prepare for the new school year.

Parents, on your back-to-school to-do list, make sure you add "schedule vaccinations and physical exams."

Doctors say not to wait until the last minute because many health medical offices are still catching up on appointments delayed by the pandemic.

"You want to get the physical done ahead of time in case there are any health concerns that might keep them from participating," says Dr. Carmelo Sosa. "You want to get those addressed in advance so they'll be ready to go."

This next to-do list item should be complete weeks before the first day of school.

Doctors say get your child back on a sleep schedule.

"Sleep has a direct effect on children's health, their memory, learning and behavior, as well as their mental health," says Dr. Shivani Kamal.

According to the CDC, school-aged children need 8 to 10 hours of sleep every day. If not, it can impact their school day.

"Children can definitely have problems with learning and attention at school," Dr. Kamal said. "Even very young kids can present as hyperactive, rather than sleepy, if they're not getting enough sleep."

A new California law aims to prevent sleep deprivation. It requires public high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 am and middle schools no earlier than 8 am.

Health officials hope this allows students to get the sleep they need and hopefully decreases the need for naps, which isn't discouraged.

"If they are taking naps, it's short and under 20 minutes," Dr. Kamal said.

Adequate sleep combined with proper nutrition will help students succeed inside and outside the classroom.

"It'll give you a lot more physical energy to participate in after-school activities or sports or anything," says Dr. Pranita Shenoy.

Sara Rima is a dietician with Valley Children's and says each meal should have fruits and veggies, protein, a starch and calcium.

As for snacks, a fruit or vegetable paired with a protein or starch.

"We have Tajin packets here," Rima said. "This is a really great way to add some flavor to fruits and veggies if your kiddos aren't big on them."

Rima also suggests sending a water bottle with kids to school so they stay hydrated.

"We want to try to avoid using sweeteners or even artificial sweeteners but every once in a while, it's totally fine to add maybe a Crystal Lite," she said.

Sleep, nutritious foods, staying hydrated -- these are all ways to keep kids healthy during the school year.

Valley Children's doctors say the most common illnesses or conditions that occur during the school year are pink eye, head lice and those stuffy noses.

"Parents should expect to see an increase in respiratory illnesses this year, such as the common cold," says Dr. Garrick Hayashi.

With masks now optional, doctors encourage parents to remind their child to practice good hygiene habits, like hand washing and avoid touching your face.