Autumn is the start of the new academic year, and with the return to school comes exposure to all kinds of bugs and germs – children starting school can catch anything up to 12 colds a year. “A good diet, and plenty of sleep and exercise will boost your child’s defence system and provide some protection,” says Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Research Centre.
To prevent tiredness, it’s a good idea to get your child going to bed earlier at least a week before school begins so she gets used to early starts. Also, take the time to check that all her vaccinations are up to date – prevention is better than cure.
Colds are common, but chicken pox and head lice may also raise their itchy heads when children are in such close contact. Chicken pox is most infectious before the rash appears, which makes prevention nearly impossible, and your child will need to stay at home until she is free of infection – about five days. Head scratching often means head lice – and nearly a quarter of pupils in England have them. If they appear, your child can go to school, but tell a teacher so her class can be treated.
If you do need to keep your child away from school because of illness, you should tell the school on the first day of her absence. Finally, as part of your child’s health MOT, visit your dentist and your optician. New research into children’s eye health has revealed a quarter of children have gone without having their eyes tested during the first eight years of their life, a critical time-period for diagnosing eye problems. Worrying recent statistics also show that up to 1 million children in the UK currently have an undetected vision problem. Karen Sparrow, from the Association of Optometrists (AOP) says: “There seems to be a lack of understanding about eyesight and eye health. I would urge parents to remember taking their children to see the optician is just as important as the trip to the dentist, or having their feet measured. This should ideally happen around the age of 5, or even before, as problems detected this young can be corrected more easily.”
Eye tests are free for children under 16, so make sure you make a visit to the optician part of your back-to-school checklist.