Back to School season is here – Dr David Crichton

As we come to the end of the summer months, it’s hard to believe many of our local children go back to school this week.

With September just hours away, the start of a new academic year is undoubtedly an exciting time for some families yet a very anxious time for others.

We’re all awaiting guidance on what school will look like for those pupils back in class soon with many parents and teachers worried about coronavirus and the risks of being poorly should they catch the virus.

I thought it might be helpful to offer some general health advice for young people and teachers as typically, the mixing of children once they go back to school brings about many common illnesses and minor health ailments.

First, the biggest thing you do to protect your health and that of an eligible child is to get vaccinated against coronavirus. Clinically vulnerable children aged between 12 and 15 years old are eligible for vaccination and I highly recommend that you encourage your child to get jabbed if they are in this group to drastically reduce their risk of struggling with complications should they catch COVID-19. As an older pupil, parent, carer or teacher, everyone aged over 16 years old can get a vaccination and this is the best way to help protect yourself against coronavirus which is a very highly transmissible virus.

For our primary aged children, my biggest advice is to remind them of how important it is that they wash their hands regularly throughout the school day. It’s not just coronavirus which is we need to be careful of as children return to school. Common minor health ailments always appear in the first few weeks of term including colds, chest infections, headlice, conjunctivitis and chickenpox.

Many of these illnesses are transmitted between children by touch so again, practicing good hand hygiene can reduce their risk of picking up such bugs. With coughs and colds, obviously you must get your child a PCR test if you suspect they have COVID-19, but many other respiratory illnesses come out as the autumn season rolls in including flu.

Every child aged between 2 and those in year 7 are eligible for a free flu vaccination. The children’s flu vaccine is safe and effective and is offered every year as a nasal spray to children to help protect them against flu.

Flu is caused by a virus and can be a very unpleasant illness for children. It can also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Children spread flu easily so vaccinating them also protects others who are vulnerable to flu, such as babies and older people.

Children will be offered the flu vaccination through their school so please keep an eye out for a consent form which usually comes out around October time.

It’s also important as a parent or carer to be alert to signs that their child could be experiencing anxiety, distress or low mood as schools go back with lockdown and the summer holidays potentially having made some feel isolated.

 

Signs that you should look out for include:

  • You might find they are more upset or find it hard to manage their emotions
  • They may appear anxious or distressed
  • Increasing trouble with sleeping and eating
  • Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
  • Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
  • For younger children, there may be more bed wetting.

 

If you are worried about a child’s mental health, you can help by:

  • Making time to talk to your child
  • Allow your child to talk about their feelings
  • Try to understand their problems and provide reassurance that you have heard them and are there to help
  • Help your child do positive activities
  • Try to keep a routine over the next few weeks
  • Contact NHS 111 or a GP immediately if you have concerns about self-harming.

Advice is also available from Rise Above, a website created with young people, and from MindEd – a free educational resource for parents and professionals working with children.

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