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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

July 15, 2022, Ethan Dodge, MD , Kristina M. Wilson, MD, MPH ,
Healthy Back-to-School Prep
Healthy Back-to-School Prep

It may be the middle of summer, but school will be back in session soon. Our experts, Dr. Ethan Dodge from Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics and Dr. Kristina Wilson from Phoenix Children’s Sports Medicine, share how to prepare for the new school year now, so you can enjoy the rest of summer and make a smooth transition to the classroom. These tips can help you and your kids prepare for a healthy, rewarding year.

Schedule a well-child visit

Many kids have resumed in-person learning, so it’s important to complete their annual medical check-up before they join their classmates. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician now to avoid the end-of-summer rush. Need a pediatrician? Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics has locations throughout the valley to better serve your family.

Your child’s doctor will review their medical history, including any medicines they take, and complete a physical exam. This visit is also an ideal time to talk with your pediatrician about any new or long-term concerns, including any feeling of anxiety, depression or stress that your child may be experiencing. These tips for recharging your brain for a healthier you may help. Keep in mind that some kids may feel more comfortable talking about sensitive issues alone with their doctor.

Make sure vaccines are up to date

Arizona requires certain vaccines for children entering various grade levels at both public and private schools. Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics follows the vaccine schedule outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for kids from birth through age 18. This includes an annual flu vaccine.

In addition, Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics is administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to existing patients of Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics ages 6 months – 11 years. Patients ages 6 months through 4 years will receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in a three-dose series. Patients ages 5 years through 11 years will receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in a two-doses series. Please note your vaccine appointment may be made at another Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics location, based on appointment availability.

Please contact your Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics office if you have questions or to make a vaccine appointment. To learn more, see our COVID-19 FAQs.  

Prepare athletes for play

If your child is active in sports, a sports physical should be part of their visit to ensure they are ready to play. Sports physicals can be completed by your pediatrician and are often wrapped into the back-to-school exam. Also, have your child’s equipment checked at the start of each season to make sure it fits properly and provides protection against sports medicine injuries.

Phoenix Children’s Sports Medicine Program provides injury diagnosis and treatment as well as education and care for young athletes. Our physicians have specialized training in pediatric sports medicine and work closely with coaches, athletic trainers and physical therapists. What’s more, many of our sports medicine experts were athletes themselves, so they understand the challenges of youth sports. If your child experiences a sports-related injury (for example, a sprain, strain or overuse injury), you can book an appointment directly online. Should your child receive a diagnosis that requires physical therapy, we have three locations around the valley. Find a location near you.

Back to school also means back to sports, particularly collision and contact sports like football, hockey, and soccer – all high-risk head injury sports. We hope your child never has a concussion, but if they do, Phoenix Children’s Concussion Clinic is here to help. We have the only brain injury program in the state with a multi-disciplinary team of experts specializing in young people, who have unique challenges with head injuries as their brains are still growing and developing. 

It may be the middle of summer, but Arizona stays plenty hot throughout the fall. This can put kids at risk for heat-related illnesses. Remind your young athletes to protect themselves from the heat by staying hydrated before, during and after exercise. As a guideline, children ages 9 to 12 should drink 3 to 8 ounces of liquid every 20 minutes during activity, while teens need 1 to 1.5 liters of liquid per hour. Also, make sure they take frequent breaks from practice or play to rest and cool down well before the heat affects them.

Wear backpacks properly

Backpacks are a great way to transport books and supplies, but if not used correctly, they also can cause back, neck or shoulder pain or injury. A backpack that is too heavy or unbalanced also may lead to posture problems over time.

Choose a backpack that is the right size for your child and has two wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded back and a waist strap. Your child should always use both shoulder straps to carry the backpack, with the straps tight enough to keep the load close to the back rather than hanging loosely. Load heavier items in the bottom and center of the pack.

If your child appears to be struggling or moving awkwardly while wearing the backpack, check the fit and lighten the load if needed. Encourage them to tell you it ever feels uncomfortable or if they have pain or numbness in their back, neck or shoulders. Some kids may prefer a crossbody or messenger-style bag that better spreads the weight across the body.

Travel safety

Bicycles, including e-bikes, are a popular way for kids to get to and from school and activities.  Make sure your child wears a properly fitted helmet and follows the rules of the road (e.g., coming to a full stop at stop signs and traffic lights, as well as uses proper hand signals). Use lights and reflectors to make the bike more easily seen. As with driving, mobile phones should never be used while riding a bike! For more information on bike safety, check out other helpful resources.

Get back to a routine

Summer break can mean staying up later and sleeping in. Consider getting kids back on school routines a few days before classes start to help them (and the rest of the family) adjust to a more structured schedule and ease into the new year.

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