Back to School and ENT

Mimi Ellis, PA-C

It's hard to believe, but just as my backyard tomato crop is getting good, it's time to get ready for school starting. That's in about 3 weeks for Gwinnett County. With a daughter in high school, I deal with many of the same challenges as the rest of the parents out there. And, having worked in ENT for 6 years now, I have some tips on how to prepare.

Change the sleep schedule. One week before school starts, begin transitioning to the sleep schedule kids will keep during the year. One of the joys of summer is going to bed later, and sleeping later, which can make the first week of school pretty miserable. Start by moving bed time up by one hour every day or two, so that a few days before school starts, the new sleep schedule is established. Be sure kids and parents get the right amount of sleep. Most of us get don't get enough, adults and kids alike. Sleep is needed for proper growth, immune function, and is important for cognitive and emotional wellbeing. Children ages 5-12 need 10 - 11 hours of sleep per night, and teens at least 9.25. All screens should be off at least one hour before bed time to ensure timely onset of sleep. And let's face it, parenting is the hardest, although most rewarding job we will ever have, and our kids need us to be sure we're well rested, too. Also remember that snoring is not normal in kids when they are well. Talk to an ENT if your child snores. In many cases, this can be a sign of sleep apnea, which results in lack of the deep sleep we all need.

Get flu vaccines. Influenza can sicken a child for up to 10 days. The resulting missed days of school can be difficult to make up, and can cause undue stress for you and your child. Flu vaccines do NOT cause the flu. When people come down with an illness right after getting vaccinated, it is because they already were exposed to the virus that made them sick. A low grade temperature the day of and possibly the day after the vaccine is not uncommon, and well worth the trade off. Kids are at risk of getting pneumonia with the flu, which can be life threatening. Sinus infections and ear infections are common with the flu, and can mean several weeks of poor hearing for your child, also impacting their social and academic progress.

Get hearing checked. Many pediatricians will do a yearly hearing screen with kids' annual physical. Although this is probably enough for most kids, the validity of these tests has been called in to question over the last decade or so. If you have any concerns about your child's speech and language development, academic performance, or even social functioning, see an Audiologist for a complete hearing assessment. Many developmental challenges are misdiagnosed when hearing loss is missed or not addressed.

Wash those hands. The single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection is to wash our hands. Let your kids see you washing your hands. Modeling the behavior we're looking for is the best way to get kids to form good habits. Remind them to wash with warm soap and water for at least twenty seconds or more (the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday), several times a day, especially before eating, and after using the restroom. This will improve your odds of keeping your child healthy during the school year, and for the years to come.