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Back to School - the COVID Edition

By Joanna A. McKinley, MD - Dothan Pediatric Clinic

Backpacks, lunchboxes, and school buses…it’s back to school! After an almost 5 month “summer” break, many students (and parents) are ready to return to school.  This school year includes a new classmate named COVID-19.  Whether this is the first day of preschool or the first day of senior year, COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and added many uncertainties for students and parents.

Sending our children back to school and keeping them healthy during a pandemic can be a daunting task!  While at school, our children can do many of the same things that we have already been doing to stay healthy.

Encourage your child, especially older children and teenagers, to wear masks at school.  Masks may sometimes be uncomfortable but they will decrease the spread of COVID-19. If your child has an underlying medical condition like asthma, masks can be especially protective.

Encourage your older children to maintain physical distance from others when possible and not to congregate in groups.

Washing hands and using hand sanitizer as well as keeping hands away from the eyes, nose, and mouth will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.

If your child wakes up with a fever, cough, sore throat, or other signs of being sick, please keep them at home and call their doctor. DO NOT send them to school. Together we can keep our children, teachers, and school staff healthy.

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Good sleep, nutrition, and exercise are important to keeping children healthy during the school year. Children who get adequate sleep often have healthier immune systems and perform better in school. Preschoolers need about 10-13 hours of sleep with school age children needing 9-12 hours and teenagers needing 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Encourage your child to eat breakfast each morning. Aim for 5 fruit and vegetable servings daily as well as water for good hydration instead of higher calorie snacks or drinks. A balanced diet helps keep your child’s body happy and healthy. Finally, after sitting in a desk or in front of a computer all day, getting the body up and moving will go a long way to shaking some of the daily stresses away.

Please talk with a trusted family member, friend, or healthcare professional if needed.

The unknowns, disruptions and changes for students this year can affect their mental health. If you notice your child struggling with this in any way, call your child’s pediatrician. This is true for parents as well. Juggling work, balancing financial and household responsibilities, and making sure children are achieving in school can become stressful.

As we begin to settle into a routine for this new school year, there will be some starts, stops, and surprises along the way. This school year will most likely not resemble any that we have known. With plenty of patience, creativity, and flexibility, we will get through this together. Hang on and try to enjoy it!

Joanna McKinley
Author: Joanna McKinley

Dr. Joanna A. McKinley was born and raised in Dothan, Alabama. She is a graduate of the University of South Alabama where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science in 1997. She earned her Doctor of Medicine degree with Research Honors from the University of South Alabama in May, 2002. She then completed a Pediatric Internship program at University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Pediatric Residency program at University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. McKinley has been certified in general pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics since 2005. Before joining Dothan Pediatric Clinic in the fall of 2008, Dr. McKinley was a pediatrician in Jackson, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. McKinley received the Southern Society for Pediatric Research Trainee Travel Award (1998) and America’s Top Pediatrician Award (2008). She is a proud member of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the Houston County Medical Society. Dr. McKinley enjoys reading, spending time with her family, baseball (particularly the Atlanta Braves), football, and working in her flower beds.

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Back to School – The COVID Edition

by Joanna McKinley time to read: 3 min