Back-to-School 2007 News Tips


Adjust morning wake-up schedule as school year approaches

Summer is a time for staying up late and sleeping in, but those lazy summer habits can make it hard for children to adjust to a school schedule. Experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center have some tips to make school mornings a bit more tolerable.

“Making children go to bed early is not the answer. If children are not ready to go to sleep, they’ll just lie awake,” says Dr. John Herman, a UT Southwestern sleep specialist.

Instead, Dr. Herman suggests waking children up earlier as summer comes to an end and getting them into bright light as soon as feasible, such as playing outside. Once kids start getting up, they’ll have an easier time getting to sleep earlier at night. They may be tired for a couple of days, but they will adjust, and within a week or so, they’ll be on the new schedule.

Children should have a consistent sleep schedule seven days a week. Those who are consistently well rested tend to do better academically and emotionally.

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford


Make sure children’s vaccinations are up to date

A new school year means an increased risk of children catching serious illnesses and spreading those illnesses to others. Getting your children needed vaccinations can help keep them and others healthy, says Dr. Doug Hardy, infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Check with your doctor for the recommended vaccination schedule, as several changes have been made to the schedule and make sure your children are up to date before they go back to school, Dr. Hardy says.

For younger children, proper vaccinations can help prevent polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox, pneumonia, meningitis, diarrhea and pertussis. For teens and young adults headed to college, vaccinations that also can help prevent disease include tetanus-diptheria-pertussis; meningococcal; HPV; and hepatitis A and B.

Children and young adults entering another school year also are at risk of spreading the flu virus – forgetting to wash their hands and often being in close contact with others – so a flu shot is recommended.

“If getting your children to the doctor for their vaccinations and shots seems like a hassle, think of the time you’ll save if they don’t get sick – they’ll miss less time at school, and you’ll miss less time at work,” Dr. Hardy says. “Most importantly, they’ll avoid the potentially life-threatening complications and permanent after-effects of some of these diseases.”

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford


Kids’ backpacks should not be nerve-damaging burden

A backpack bulging with books and school supplies may be a sign of a good student, but doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center say it can also cause back strain and even nerve damage.

A condition called Rucksack Paralysis is caused by the strain on shoulders and arms. Symptoms include pain and tingling in the hands and arms. The problem could become permanent if kids continue to sport packs that are too heavy.

“If the child is straining or slouching, that is a sign the pack’s too heavy,” says UT Southwestern orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Gill, co-director of the Spine Center at the medical center. “You can often lighten the load by ensuring that kids don't carry anything in their packs that isn't necessary.”

In addition, Dr. Gill recommends avoiding slinging a backpack over just one shoulder.

“Use a pack with a waistband and carry it with both straps to distribute the load,” says Dr. Gill. “Or you may want to consider a rolling backpack or luggage cart.”

Media contact: Russell Rian


Filling the lunch box with food for thought

With childhood obesity a continuing concern, nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center say what you put in your child’s lunch box is more important than ever.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern, says a healthy lunch is good for the body and the brain. Kids who eat a good lunch do better in school. Look for protein from lean lunch meats, low-fat cheese or peanut butter on whole-grain bread. Other good lunch box items include fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit cups, yogurt in a tube, single serving containers of cottage cheese and pudding cups made from skim milk.

 “A healthy lunch not only keeps the body going but also the brain,” says Ms. Sandon. “Kids who eat regular healthy meals often do better in school.”

If your kids insist on chips and candy, use baked chips and offer fun-sized candy bars instead of full-sized bars.

Media Contact: Erin Prather Stafford


When school sports begin it’s time for some quality H2O

For many children, back to school means back to sports. During the time off, many young athletes tend to forget the importance of drinking plenty of fluids during hot, long practices, says Dr. Luis Palacios, an expert in sports medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

He recommends sports participants drink 4 to 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes if they have been working out for an hour or less, including warm-up sessions. For workouts longer than an hour, athletes should reach for the sports drinks to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that are lost through sweating.

“Hydration is very important because heat stress and heat stroke are such a concern among physicians caring for athletes,” Dr. Palacios says. “Besides, dehydration impairs performance.”

Media Contact: Katherine Morales


Eating on the run? Healthier fast-food meals now an option

Are after-school activities making menu choices for you? Rather than super-size that next fast-food selection, think about ways to include healthier options in those typically high-calorie, high-fat meals, says Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a clinical nutritionist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Be proactive, focused and selective when dining out, even at fast-food restaurants,” she says.

Several fast-food chains now offer fruits, vegetables and side salads (easy on the dressing) as an alternative to french fries. In addition, more fast-food companies are providing orange juice and low-fat milk as optional beverage choices. While low in fat, bean-laden chili can provide plenty of fiber. Also, a small fruit yogurt parfait can be a snack or dessert that counts toward your daily servings of dairy and fruit.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales



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