Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 21, August 13 - 19

Health In School  

General Health
General health needs of a child are important considerations for parents as they can make all the difference to a happy healthy year. For children who are about to start school for the first time, or children who have not had a physical check-up for over two years, now is the time to have a full physical evaluation of their ongoing development. Growth (height / weight) checks are important to ensure that children meet normal and optimal growth rates. Ruling out musculo-skeletal health concerns such as scoliosis and other complications which can arise as a child is developing are also vital throughout this growing process.

Besides growth checks there are other areas that need to be monitored: At the age of three, a routine vision test is recommended. Around the ages of six and twelve, children will require certain vaccinations although this tends to vary from schedule to schedule and from country to country. Check with your pediatrician. A dental check-up needs to be done yearly: ideally, a child's first visit should be as early as one year old and not later than two and a half years, when all the milk teeth have grown.

Fluid Intake
Children are somewhat oblivious to how hot it is during times of play and learning and can forget to drink enough. Headaches or tiredness on hot days may be an indication of slight dehydration. Parents need to explain to their children about the importance of drinking enough and this should be reinforced time and again. What to drink? This could be almost anything but, as we all know, nothing beats water (mineral not distilled). Fruit eating should also be encouraged especially water melon which is full of water but also holds some natural sugar, minerals and vitamins.

The School Bag
During school time, the school bag becomes an integral part of a child's life. With all the clutter children tend to collect, this bag can become way too heavy and can unwittingly contribute to future health problems. Bags should not be heavier than 1/10th of a child's weight , it should be comfortable and straps should be appropriate lengths for the height of the child so it is carried correctly and safely.
We can consider all of the above pointers as preventative medicine measures which means we intervene a little but gain much in the long term towards our children's health, happiness and future development.

The New Kid in School
Children who are new in China, new in Beijing or in a new school, find this initial adjustment a difficult time and one which can cause a great deal of stress. Coming to a new environment, coping with new friends, new teachers and new languages can be quite overwhelming, causing different negative emotions and difficulties in adjusting. Children's reactions may be seen as unwillingness to go to school, anger, tears, bad moods, bed wetting or possibly in a wide range of psychosomatic symptoms such as abdominal pain (with or without diarrhea), headache, dizziness, chest pain, arm and leg pain. Usually with family and teachers support, the situation improves and the symptoms gradually disappear. Should the child continue to complain, or symptoms worsen, the child should be seen by a pediatrician to rule out any organic problems. If the problem is psychological in nature, the physician can help to refer to a psychologist for evaluation and treatment at least for a short period of time so as to stabilize the problem.

Finally you are ready to send you child to school reassured that they are well equipped to enjoy a happy, healthy new school year.

This article was contributed by Dr. Noa Frenkel, Pediatric Specialist at Beijing United Family Hospital.

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