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Homework for parents: your child’s back-to-school health checklist

As more than 50 million students head back to school, the nation’s emergency physicians say now is the time to get everyone’s health in check.

“For many, the focus is on back to school clothes and supplies, which is important,” says Jay Kaplan, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “But it’s equally, if not more important to also take time to schedule routine doctor visits and to make sure that your child’s health information is all organized.”

For working parents, getting organized with regard to children’s health information may not alleviate all concerns. However, it will help keep children safe and better prepare parents to cope with emergencies.

For managers, this preparation on the part of employees who are parents has benefits as well. It will lead to fewer unscheduled days off and less workplace disruption.

For medical office managers, such preparation is in keeping with the work the practice does every day.

With these objectives in mind, here are a few things ACEP, the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine, recommends parents do now.

  • Organize your child’s medical history records and emergency medical contact information.
  • Complete a consent-to-treat form and give copies to the school nurse and any day-care providers to keep in your child’s record and to take with them if your child should need to go to the emergency department. The form will allow caregivers to authorize medical treatment. The form should include information related to prescription medications, medical problems or previous surgeries as well as pertinent family history and emergency contacts. Free forms can be downloaded at Emergency Care for You, an ACEP website. An emergency information form is also available for children with special needs.
  • Coordinate with the school nurse and your child’s physician to develop action plans for any health issues, such as asthma or food allergies. Communicate these plans to all appropriate care givers.
  • Ideally, schedule medical and dental check-ups before school starts. Some children will need immunizations. Consider vision and hearing tests, since impairment can adversely affect learning. Consider a sports check-up if your child will be playing in sports. 
  • Review and do a dry run with your child of his or her route to school, explaining potential hazards along the way. If your child walks to school, make sure he or she understands potential traffic dangers.
  • If your child takes the bus, establish a safe, visible pick up/drop off spot, preferably with a group of children and in an area where they can be clearly seen by adults. If your child drives to school, make sure he or she obeys all laws and wears seatbelts.
  • Make sure your children know how to telephone for help. Post emergency contact numbers by every telephone in your home. Have them practice how to call 911 or the local emergency number and give their names address and a brief description of the problem.
  • Develop a family emergency plan in case something happens on the way to (or from) and while at school. Be aware of the emergency and evacuation plans for your children’s schools.

School children are not only heading back to classrooms; they’ll also hit the athletic fields as well to participate in school sports. ACEP recommends that you find out what your children should do to protect themselves.

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