Expert Medical Advice About Going Back to School

When preparing for the Back-to-School season, many parents are thinking about purchasing school supplies, setting class schedules, and getting their kids back into a daily routine. While those are all important, make sure you don’t overlook their new school year health! I want to make sure my daughter is healthy and ready for school, so I turned to a medical expert to learn more about scheduling a visit, immunizations, and check-ups before returning to school this fall.

Schedule a Check-Up or Well Visit

If your child has not already had their yearly check-up, it is important to schedule one so that they can remain healthy throughout the school year. During this visit, you and your child can also discuss any mental health concerns.

Dr. Damon Korb, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Los Gatos, and author of Raising an Organized Child says, “Think of going back to school the same way that you would have any year, but perhaps it is more important. We do not want to miss a potential problem to avoid another. Children should get all of their normal well visits and immunizations.”

Immunizations and Flu Shots

Dr. Korb recommends referring to the immunization schedule recommended by the CDC to make sure your child is up to date.

Sumana Reddy M.D. at Acacia Family Medical Group in Salinas says that everyone should make sure that they get a yearly flu shot. Flu shots are normally available starting in September.

“Last year 500 children died of the flu. It’s very important to get your flu shot,” says Dr. Reddy.

Dr. Korb agrees by saying, “This year, the flu shot is even more important. We want to reduce the common cold because when our noses start running, we all touch our faces. That is a recipe for disaster with COVID-19. Getting the flu shot may actually reduce the likelihood of catching and spreading COVID-19.”

Dr. Reddy explains that most doctors are concerned about people being infected with a combination of the Coronavirus and the flu virus that will be circulating this fall. “The more families that get the flu vaccine, the better it will be for everyone,” she says.

Unlike most vaccines, you need to get the flu shot yearly for it to be effective since the strain of flu often changes.

If you don’t have insurance, vaccines will be provided for free by doctors due to the federally funded program Vaccines For Children. The program provides vaccines to children who might not be vaccinated because of an inability to pay. The vaccines are available at private physicians’ offices and public health clinics registered as VFC providers.

If you do have insurance, there should not be a co-pay for receiving the vaccine. “The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance companies to pay in full for vaccines recommended by the CDC,” says Dr. Reddy.

Dr. Reddy explains that there might be some insurance companies that are exempt and that you should check with your insurance company about coverage before getting your vaccine.

To help parents get ready for the school year, California launched the Safe Schools Parent Page. It gives information about the health guidance schools are using in their safety plans to protect students and staff. Parents can learn about school re-openings and COVID-19 vaccinations on the Parent Page, as well as schedule a vaccine appointment for their child. Visit for more information.

Eye Health

Children might be unaware of the fact their vision is not normal. This may lead to feeling frustrated about being unable to see the words in a book or in the classroom causing a child to act out.

The CDC recommends that children’s eyes should be checked regularly by an eye doctor or pediatrician. Amblyopia or lazy eye is the most common cause of vision loss in children which can be treated if caught early between the ages of 3 to 5 years old.

The American Optometric Association estimates 80% of a child’s learning happens through observation. In the classroom, most of the teaching is done by displaying information.

Oral Health

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child visit a dentist for an initial check-up by the time they turn one. According to the CDC, tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic diseases for kids ages 6 to 19. Research studies found that children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who have good oral health.

Fluoride can prevent about one-third of cavities in baby teeth. If your town water does not contain fluoride, you can ask your pediatrician or dentist to prescribe fluoride which is typically taken in pill form once a day.

Dr. Kunkel of California KiDDs Pediatric Dentistry in Fresno and Clovis recommends, “For a healthy and beautiful smile, avoid sticky candy and snacks. Choose a healthy alternative such as low-fat cheese or yogurt. Brush at least twice a day or more—and don’t forget to floss!”

To help families gear up for Back-to-School, HealthySmiles Mobile Dental Foundation is offering free, emergency dental services for Central California kids by appointment only. To schedule a free appointment for your child, call (559) 229-6437.

Telehealth Check-In

Kids that are going back to school either remotely or in-person are likely to experience anxiety about this transition.

“I recommend that all kids do a telehealth check-in with their pediatrician before going back to school to discuss the transition. Often parents think their kid is fine, but you want to have a chance to talk about stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Reddy.

During this check-in, you can also make sure that your vaccines are up to date or talk about any other mental health concerns.

Be a Role Model

Dr. Korb says, “Make sure you prepare your child by teaching and modeling safe behavior such as frequently washing hands.” Set a good example for your kids by prioritizing your health, too. Make sure you are also getting your flu shot, going to the dentist, and visiting the eye doctor.