Summer break 2023 is coming to a close, if you can believe it. For families, it’s a busy time. Getting the kids ready for fall sports, buying school supplies, packing lunches, and returning to the morning routine is a big shift.

With so much going on, don’t forget to take steps to keep your kids and yourself healthy this year. As an advanced practice provider lead at Legacy Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, I have spent 10 years caring for kids. As a parent, I understand how busy this time of year can be. 

Here are my seven recommendations you can employ today to ensure your kiddos start the 2023-2024 school year feeling their best: 

1. Keep them hydrated! Drinking enough water regulates body temperature, supports joints, gets rid of waste, and may even improve cognitive function in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids and teens drink five to eight cups of water per day, depending on age. Kids can start the day off right with a full cup of water. Double-check their water bottle is full when they go to school and empty when they return. Refill it once they are home.  

You may be surprised to learn milk is also incredibly hydrating. Some researchers have even found it to be more hydrating than water. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found milk’s hydrating effects to last longer than water because you retain its fluids longer. 

2. Protect against upper respiratory infections. Health professionals expect an uptick in cases of COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold this fall and winter. The best way to prevent upper respiratory infections is to stay up to date with vaccinations, such as COVID-19 boosters and flu shots.

    If your child becomes ill, contact your pediatrician to discuss symptoms and determine if any treatment is needed. Alleviate symptoms with children’s pain relievers, antihistamines, throat lozenges, or decongestants. Offer plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and loosen congestion. Warm liquids can be soothing as well. Make sure your child is getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night and taking naps if possible. Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier will help them sleep more comfortably. Contact your pediatrician or visit urgent care if your child is still experiencing symptoms after 10 days.

    3. Stock your medicine cabinet. The start of school is a great time to inventory your medicine cabinet. Check expiration dates and make sure you have prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, a thermometer, ice packs, and a first aid kit that includes bandages in all sizes. 

    Ensure you have your preferred pain-reducing/anti-fever medication on hand. Ask your pediatrician for the correct dose now, so it’s available for an unexpected nighttime fever. Keep Pedialyte drinks or popsicles on hand for rehydration when your child is ill.  

    4. Prevent infectious diseases with clean hands. About 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Clean hands prevent illnesses and the spread of infections to others. Put hand sanitizers in backpacks and the car. Have them wash their hands when they get home. Teach kids to cough into their elbows. 

    5. Set and communicate allergy and asthma action plans. If your child has asthma or an allergy that can cause anaphylaxis, have a documented plan in place at school in case of emergency. Ensure the school has your child’s EpiPen and inhalers on hand and your child’s teacher is familiar with the plan.

    6. Review and update immunizations. COVID-19 boosters, HPV vaccines, flu shots, and other immunizations protect against some of the most common and preventable diseases. Work with your pediatrician and school administrators to ensure your kids are current on all required immunizations. Make an appointment as soon as possible if you are behind on any school-required vaccinations. 

    7. Know your options for after-hours medical help. Plan where you will take your child if they become sick or injured after normal business hours. Save your pediatrician’s after-hours phone number, so it’s ready for middle-of-the-night questions. 

    Legacy Health-GoHealth offers pediatric urgent care designed for kids and staffed by pediatric specialists during the day, after hours, and on weekends. We treat non-life-threatening conditions, including flu, fever, earaches, insect bites, sprains, simple fractures, and cuts requiring stitches. 

    Back to school is a special time. Taking a few extra precautions will help your family enjoy the festivities. If your family does get sick, my team and I are available. 

    Have a great start to your school year! 

    Alexis Smithers is the Advanced Practice Provider Lead and a Nurse Practitioner at Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care.