By Dr. Brad Lucas, Chief Medical Officer for Buckeye Health Plan
Whether you chose to send your child back to school, are homeschooling and supplementing with the occasional playdate, or are participating in the learning “pods” that are receiving a lot of publicity, there are general guidelines that can keep your children safe in each instance.
Buckeye Health Plan encourages parents to recognize the importance of preventative care and proper hygiene this school year to keep their children healthy as they head back to school this fall. Preparations look different amid continuing concerns about COVID-19. Check off these back to school items to give your child a safe and healthy start to the new school year:
Did you know that one in three Ohio children, 19 to 35 months, has not received all recommended vaccines? As children enter grade school, many remain behind on their vaccines. According to 2017 Ohio Department of Health data, only 62 percent of the approximately 2,000 Ohio elementary schools met the state standard for incoming Kindergartners by the October deadline.
“Getting the right vaccinations is a safe and effective way to protect your children from potentially life-threatening diseases,” said Dr. Brad Lucas, Buckeye Health Plan Chief Medical officer. “It also helps keep other children safe by preventing the spread of these diseases to children who cannot get vaccinated because they are too young, have severe allergic reactions or have compromised immune systems.”
Your family doctor or pediatrician can give you the list of immunizations required at every stage of your child’s development. Even if your child has missed immunizations early on, they can get caught up. The CDC provides a recommended immunization schedule for children, from birth to 18 years of age.
Many parents may be concerned about immediate health threats as their children return to school. Detecting hidden health challenges and milestone tracking are very important. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children visit their pediatrician once a year from ages 3 to 21. Additionally, if your child plays a sport in school, he or she must have a completed physical exam prior to tryouts.
A visit to your child’s doctor is a critical opportunity to detect a possible illness or developmental delay and to address known health challenges related to sleep patterns, nutrition among other concerns.
“Your pediatrician is there to partner with you and to help track your child’s progress throughout their school years,” said Dr. Lucas. “These visits are just as important as sick visits.”
Buckeye Health Plan ensures members have access to vaccinations and well-child visits by covering care at no cost to them. Buckeye’s MyHealth Pays® (a rewards program) offers families reward dollars for completing these back-to-school checklist items. Well-child visits can earn up to $75 a year on a Walmart® or Sam’s Club debit card. Plus, Buckeye provides free transportation to the doctor to improve access to care.
Practice Proper Hygiene
As children gather in the classroom or in pods or on playdates, proper hygiene will help decrease the spread of illness. Nearly 22 million school days are lost annually due to the common cold. This year, families may be concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in classroom settings. Research has shown that proper hygiene and social distancing are the best ways to fight the virus. The State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization have provided additional guidance to schools to help decrease the spread of viruses. Buckeye encourages children to do their part as well.
Educate children on the importance of:
- Washing your hands. Teach and reinforce proper handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds–or sing “The ABC Song”–and use hand sanitizer when soap and water is unavailable.
- Being mindful of others when coughing or sneezing. Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or elbow and wash your hands after. Wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Reducing the use of shared items like school supplies and other communal items.
- Staying home when they are sick. Students are encouraged to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have been sick or recently came in contact with someone with COVID-19.
- Maintaining proper distancing between seats in the classroom, hallway, bathrooms or lunchroom and when in the gym or on the playground.