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Back-to-School Health Advice

Dr. Katherine Piwnica-Worms, NYC Health + Hospitals

A healthy start to a new school year starts with a visit to your child’s doctor. Dr. Katherine Piwnica-Worms, Senior Director of Pediatric Health Care Delivery at NYC Health + Hospitals, offers eight back-to-school health tips to help you prepare your kids for a healthy year:

Back-to-School Health Tips for the 2021 School Year

  • COVID-19 Readiness
    Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect children and their communities from COVID-19. Students aged 12 and older should get their first vaccine dose and be fully vaccinated before school starts. Children should continue to practice health and safety skills throughout the year including wearing face masks in indoor public settings (for children aged 2 and older) and frequently washing hands. Make sure to let your child’s doctor know if your child tests positive for COVID-19 so you can discuss when it is safe to stop isolation and resume physical activity/sports activity.
  • Find an expert pediatrician in your neighborhood. Weekend and evening appointments are available at many locations.

  • Annual Physicals
    To support your child’s back-to-school health, make sure they visit their doctor every year. Yearly physicals are important to ensure children are growing and developing properly.
  • Vision and Hearing Tests
    Children should have their hearing tested before starting school, and vision exams once per year starting at six months of age. Watch for signs of hearing or vision loss and talk to your child’s doctor if you notice any changes.
  • Flu Shots
    The flu is a contagious illness that infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications, especially for children. Every child six months or older should get the flu shot once every year. Flu season changes every year but can start as early as November.
  • Other Vaccinations
    Vaccines are necessary to help protect children and others against disease. In New York City, all students two months to 18 years must get their age-appropriate vaccinations in order to attend child care or school.

    Check the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website to find the latest information on vaccine requirements for your child. You can also find more details by visiting the NYC Department of Education website.

    NYC Health + Hospitals also offers the HPV vaccine for both boys and girls. The vaccine against HPV can help prevent certain types of cancer.

  • Nutrition
    You can help your kids make healthy food choices – even at school. Encourage them to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. When eating bread or pasta, choose 100% whole grain products. Encourage them to choose water, not juice or soda. Check out this nutrition resource guide for parents that has information for you and fun projects and activities for kids to learn about nutrition.
  • Routines
    Consistent routines help keep children alert and productive during the school year and can be a life-saver when it comes to avoiding problems at bedtime. Afterschool routines should include:

      A healthy snack before homework.

      One hour of physical activity.

      A pre-bedtime routine such as bathing, brushing their teeth, and reading together.

  • Sleep
    Adequate sleep helps keep kids focused each day at school and is important for their health.

      Newborns 0 to 3 months should sleep 10.5-18 hours every day. They may sleep from a few minutes to several hours at one time.

      Babies 4 to 11 months: 9-12 hours every night plus naps throughout the day, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

      Toddlers 1 to 2 years: 11-14 hours, including naps.

      Children 3 to 5 years: 11-13 hours. Their naps should get shorter and happen less often.

      Kids 6 to 13 years: 9-11 hours.

      Teenagers 14+ years: 8-10 hours.

These back-to-school health tips will help you and your family return to the classroom safely and confident in your health. For more information on navigating COVID-19 this fall, review the rest of our COVID-19 resources for all New Yorkers.

To make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine for all New Yorkers aged 12 or older, call 1-877-VAX-4NYC or 1-877-829-4692.

Establish Family Health Care with NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals offers expert pediatric and adolescent health services at little or no cost.

To make an appointment at any location, call 1-844-NYC-4NYC or 1-844-692-4692

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