HOUSTON (August 18, 2014)

It’s that time of year again: parents are winding down summer plans and tightening the reins on bedtime schedules. And while adding anything else to the back-to-school to-do list may seem daunting, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital has five tips that will make going back to school this year easier than ever.

Yearly exams for healthy children: Experts emphasize the importance of adhering to the recommended annual physical and vision exams as well as staying up-to-date on your child’s vaccine schedule. Children’s bodies can change drastically within a year and exams and vaccines are essential to keeping children healthy and protected from prevalent illnesses. Parents should visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website to learn what vaccinations are required before sending kids back to school and keep track of immunizations with this helpful chart.

Sleep is the foundation for good performance: According to researchers, kids today aren't getting enough sleep -- a sad fact that can negatively affect a child's behavior or academic performance. Experts encourage parents to help their children get in a regular bedtime routine a week before school begins and to follow the recommended sleep guidelines for their child. On average, school-aged children should get nine to 11 hours of sleep each night.

Nutrition is a key to success: Parents should take the initiative to encourage healthy eating with their children. One of the most important factors in a child’s success in academics, behavior, and physical activity is good nutrition. Whether sending off a packed lunch at the beginning of the day or encouraging children to make healthy choices in the lunch line, parents and caregivers play a key role in a child’s health and success during the school year. Nutritional guidelines are the same for kids and adults alike: eliminate solid fats and added sugar and incorporate a healthy balance of protein, fruits, vegetables, grain, and dairy into the daily diet.

Prevention from serious injury: Injury is the leading cause of death in children and teenagers; however, it is preventable in most cases. Be sure that children know to obey all street signs and officers whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school. Check the playground equipment at your child’s school. Look for hazards such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Spaces that can trap children, such as openings between ladder rungs, should measure less than three and a half inches or more than nine inches in width. It is also important for your child to wear his or her backpack properly. To prevent injury, backpacks should have wide straps, padding in the back and shoulders, and should not weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of a child's body weight. Rule of thumb: if the parents can’t curl it, it’s too heavy.

The heat is still on: The brutal heat and humidity of August and September can be a danger to children and teens playing outside during recess, sports practices, and other after-school activities. The emergency department at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital sees a rise in heat-related illnesses during this time of year. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a child weighing about 88 pounds should drink five ounces of cold tap water every 20 minutes while children and teens weighing 132 pounds should drink nine ounces every 20 minutes. One ounce is roughly equal to two kid-size gulps. Typically, by the time a child is thirsty, he or she may be dehydrated already.

The physicians and staff at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital want your children to stay safe and healthy as they head back to school. Applying these tips will greatly improve the odds of this happening and help parents eliminate any unnecessary stressors this school year.