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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: August 26, 2014


DOVER (Aug. 20, 2014) - With Delawareans knee deep in another humid summer, turning one's attention to school can be challenging. Now is the time to check the health readiness of returning students.

Exams and immunizations: The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) reminds parents and guardians that students should have annual pediatric well-child visits. It is best to schedule these during school vacations when possible. Pediatricians will screen the child's overall health, including vision, hearing, and oral health. DPH recommends regular dentist visits beginning at age 1. Optometrists suggest annual eye exams for optimal vision and eye health.

To prevent communicable diseases such as chickenpox, measles, and diphtheria, DPH's Immunization Program recommends that Delawareans be up-to-date with their immunizations. Children especially need current immunizations to stay healthy. For a list of required immunizations by age, visit the Delaware Immunization Program's website at www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/immunize.html or call 800-282-8672.

School medical forms: Schools send home many medical and safety forms. These forms are easier to complete if well-child visits are done and immunizations are current, since they require the date of the child's last well visit and some immunization administration dates. Be certain to return the forms so administrators know emergency contact names and numbers. School nurses need to know medical and learning conditions, prescribed medications, and allergies. Middle and high school student athletes must have Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association forms completed by parents or guardians and signed by their physicians.

Backpacks:Purchase backpacks for students, not shoulder bags, messenger bags, or purses. When backpacks are worn correctly (not draped over one shoulder), the strongest muscles - the back and abdominal muscles - support the weight of the packs, helping children avoid shoulder and neck injuries. According to Nemours Health and Prevention Services, most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10-15 percent of their body weight in their backpacks. (The backpack of a child who weighs 80 pounds should not weigh more than 8 to 12 pounds). Use the bathroom scale to weigh your child's backpack when it is filled with books, binders, and sports gear.

Reflective tape:Buy back-to-school outer clothes and supplies with reflective tape. Reflective tape is stitched onto some coats, jackets, backpacks, and footwear. Reflective tape greatly assists bus drivers and other motorists because it helps them quickly see children at bus stops, and walking or bicycling to and from school. The extra seconds that motorists spot students help prevent accidents. If pedestrians must walk at night, Delaware law requires them to carry a flashlight or other reflective item, and they should also wear light-colored clothing.

Transportation safetyKnow what time school starts and ends, and the time that the late bell rings. Determine how children will get to school. If they ride a bus, write down the bus driver name, bus number, driver phone number, and the pick-up and drop-off times and locations. Keep that information handy at home and also include it in the child's backpack for their easy reference. Have children carry a card with important contact numbers or enter that information onto their cell phones.

Parents and guardians should explain bus policies with students. All children should be coached about the necessity of crossing at crosswalks and be taught to obey traffic signals, highway signs, and laws. Safe routes to and from school should be mapped out, and children should be reminded never to accept rides, candy, or other invitations from strangers. Whenever possible, children should be accompanied by a trustworthy adult.

Healthy lunchesFor many children, lunchtime is one of their favorite times of the school day. Children need good nutrition for their growing minds and bodies. Complete and return school forms to establish lunch accounts, sending some lunch money the first days of school as a back-up measure. Eligible students can be registered for school breakfast and lunch programs. Students who plan to bring their lunches from home should have lunch accounts established in case they lose or forget their lunch bags. To prevent foodborne illness, pack lunches in insulated coolers with ice or ice packs to keep food at 40 F or below. Pack nutritious, low-fat and no-sugar lunches with protein, fruits, and vegetables. Visit these websites to begin trying some new recipes around the dinner table, so that when school starts, you'll know your children's favorite recipes.

For more information about preparing children for returning to school, visit Nemours Health and Prevention Services' parenting website: kidshealth.org/parent/positive/learning/back_school.html.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com. Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.