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Jefferson Health

Home of Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Five Back-to-School Health and Wellness Concerns

From seemingly innocuous foods, to undiscovered ailments and classroom bullies, there are a handful of concerns to watch for as children get back to school.
school bus on road

Maintaining overall wellness means your child will have fewer distractions in school—whether they be sick days or in-class issues—promising a happy and productive year.

Here are five back-to-school wellness concerns, how you can spot them and how you can get treatment for your child.

Nut allergies
“Food allergies continue to be a problem among children,” says Dr. Paul J. Berlin, an expert in pediatric allergy, asthma and clinical immunology at Jefferson Health. “It now affects one in 13 American kids.”

Food allergies can take many different forms, from hives on the skin, to nausea, diarrhea and trouble breathing. If you begin to suspect a peanut allergy, it’s important to contact your doctor for clinical evaluation.

“At school, it’s important to have an action plan. Ensure that your child and their teacher are aware of their medications and how to administer them in an emergency,” says Dr. Berlin.

Hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral infection that primarily affects infants and children under the age of five. It is contagious and is marked by symptoms like fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, nausea, painful sores on the inside of the mouth, and blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Symptoms often appear in waves over one to two days.

There is not a specific treatment for HFMD, but most doctors recommend over-the-counter medicine to treat individual symptoms. These can include topical anesthetics for sores and pain relievers to break a fever.

A child is bullied every seven minutes in our schools. Bullying can lead to a host of emotional issues including depression and anxiety, in addition to the threat of physical injury. Children who are being bullied may appear apathetic or hypersensitive, withdraw from social settings, exhibit changes in eating habits and have trouble sleeping.

The good news is that more schools are successfully implementing bullying prevention programs, but teachers and administrators need continued training to spot and assist victims, as well as the perpetrators. Peer intervention has also proven to be an effective repellent, underlining the importance of student empowerment.

Lice are wingless insects commonly found on the scalp that feed on blood, similar to a tick. Though they are roughly the size of a sesame seed, they can be spotted with the naked eye and cause an itchy feeling or moving sensation. Lice are most active in the dark and may cause trouble sleeping.

Head lice can be treated at home with special shampoos and kits to comb out any specimens or eggs, and your home will require a thorough cleaning and vacuuming to eliminate the possibility of the issue spreading. Lice usually are not dangerous and don’t require medical treatment, but in some cases, scratching sores from head lice can cause infection which will require your doctor’s assistance.

Heart screenings
Every student-athlete should have a heart screening before participating in sports.

An irregular heartbeat or murmur could potentially be a warning sign to a deadly cardiac episode in children and teens, especially with intense physical activity like a competitive sport or intense gym class. Warning signs include shortness of breath, chest tightness, heart racing without a cause, feeling faint or actually passing out.

“Heart screenings should include a personal health history to assess past symptoms and risks, as well as a physical examination,” says Dr. David Shipon, the Director of Preventive Cardiology and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation at Jefferson Health. The examination can include an electrocardiogram (ECG) evaluated by clinicians who are educated about the latest guidelines on athletes’ ECG results. This expertise can help eliminate the risk of a false-positive while providing a clearer picture of the heart’s condition.

“If there is a true abnormality found in the health history, physical or ECG, other cardiac testing will be warranted,” says Dr. Shipon, “which may just save a life.”

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