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Back To School Health Guide

Back-to-school planning seems to start earlier every year, and while new clothes, notebooks and shoes might be at the top of your list, there are a number of health concerns that parents should consider. Here are some healthy suggestions for the return to school. - Dr. Brian McDonough, KYW Medical Editor


One of the most important decisions a parent or student can make before the start of the school year is to select the best backpack. Here are some tips to avoid injury:

-Pick a backpack with a strap that allows weight to be distributed throughout the entire back--not just one area.

-Instruct your child to bend at the knees when lifting, NOT at the waist.

-Check your child's bag every few days during the year to make certain that it is not overloaded.


Most schools require a school physical for sports participation, and even if they do not, I strongly suggest it. The physical exam serves several major purposes:

-An opportunity to evaluate cardiovascular health

-A review of potential health problems such as asthma or eating disorders

-A chance to discuss health issues that may be of concern to the athlete

-A venue for important conversations regarding the risk of infections that may occur during athletic competition


There is no perfect way to avoid all infections, but you can reduce your chances of picking them up by doing the following:

-Wash your hands often

-Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

-Avoid those you know who are sick

-Get your sleep (well-rested people are less likely to become ill)

-Eat well


200,000 children are seen in the emergency room every year for playground injuries. Avoid purchasing clothing with drawstrings, and ensure that all clothes fit snugly to reduce the chances of them getting caught in playground equipment.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent web site on the specifics regarding immunizations. First and foremost, each state has immunization requirements that must be met before a child may enter school. These may include vaccination against:

-Diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus (lockjaw)

-Haemophilus influenzae type b,

-Measles, mumps, rubella, polio

-Hepatitis B

-Varicella (chicken pox)

In most states, a parent must bring written proof of immunization from the health provider or clinic at the time of school registration. If a required vaccination has not been obtained, and there is no health condition or religious objection preventing immunization, the child must receive the vaccinations before school entry.

For more information about Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware immunization requirements, visit the CDC's website.

For questions about school policies or health examinations, contact the local school system.

For more information on the new requirements, parents should call the health department clinic nearest to them or visit the MCHD website.

They can also be accessed on the Pennsylvania State Health Department's website.

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