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What are the main health challenges that parents ought to be aware of as children get ready to get back to school next month?

Returning to school after a long hiatus tend to pose some unique challenges in children.

1. They would have their routine disrupted completely, coupled with irregular sleep and meal schedules.

Dr Anuradha Gunasekaran

2. Some children would have gained weight well beyond the expectation for the age.

3. There might be a marginal uptick of communicable viral infections during the initial 4-8 weeks of school start over, due to the close contact with their peer groups.

4. As the summer is not over, issues related to dehydration and heat exhaustion should be kept in mind.

Are there any Covid concerns that parents still ought to be worried about?

On May 5, 2023, WHO declared that Covid had ceased to be a global health emergency. Covid cases have been on a downward trend over the past 12 months in most countries. So there are no obvious reasons to worry about Covid, at present.

Can a complete health check be advised for children before they head back into school?

There is no need for an universal complete health check up for all children returning to school. A targeted approach, focussing on kids with chronic ailments would be more prudent.

1. Children with unexpected excess weight gain might warrant physical assessment, with basic blood tests and emphasis on physical activity and diet changes.

2. Children wearing spectacles shall need an ophthalmologist review, if not done in the last 6 months.

3. A dental check up for tooth ailments during vacation may support the children and avoid unplanned school absenteeism.

4. Kids with chronic asthma and allergy will benefit from yearly flu vaccination.

5. It is better to administer the ageappropriate vaccinations or catch up the vaccinations, if pending.

Could you share some healthy meal plans that parents should consider when sending their kids to school ?

Considering long hours spent in school, with at least two meal times in school, food in school should be a primary focus point for parents. Processed foods, ready-made snacks, carbonated drinks and energy drinks should be avoided at all costs. A healthy meal recipe would include fresh raw fruit, salads, pudding made of fruit and chia seeds, home-made protein bars with nuts and dates, a good balance of wholegrains, pulses and eggs.

As mentioned earlier, adequate water intake should be emphasised. Parents may insist the school authorities for sufficiently long break hours for a child to complete the meal/snack.

Are there any special initiatives that Prime Medical Center, Al Nahda will be undertaking for the community during back-to-school season?

Prime Medical Centre, Al Nahda, Sharjah, has come up with screening packages for children that includes growth assessment, with investigations for iron, Vitamin D levels, sugar and lipid profile. Paediatric diet advice is offered. The need for medication and vitamin supplementation is analysed after the necessary investigations and prescribed accordingly. Flu vaccination is administered for kids once the vaccine is available for the season.

Parents can also avail of dental and ophthalmologist consultations from Prime Medical Center, Al Nahda, for schoolgoing kids.