The 411 on back-to-school health

MADISON, Wis.—July 30, 2021—Getting ready to send kids back to school can put a lot of stress on parents and children. Heading back to school after so many have been virtually learning from home will be another challenge altogether.

“When kids are transitioning back to school, it is a great time to take inventory of their health and encourage healthy habits as school routines are put back into their schedules,” said Dr. Robert Kettler, Medical Director for WPS Health Solutions. “This is especially true this year, as many children move from virtual education at home back to the classroom, it is important to take stock of your child’s health.”

Health risks to keep an eye out for early diagnosis or signs:


Vaccines are critical to protecting your child’s health and the health of those around them, especially when they are in vulnerable communities.

It’s always a good idea to check with the school nurse or local school district before the school year begins to make sure your child is up to date with vaccinations.

Allergies and asthma

There can be many allergy and asthma triggers in the classroom, including dust mites, mold, chalk dust, and animal dander.

Recess, no matter how fun, can also hold many outdoor triggers such as pollen and other allergens. Indoors, reducing dust mites and other allergens in your home can help improve allergy and asthma symptoms.

Head lice

Teach children not to share hats, wigs, hair ribbons and ties, combs, brushes, scarves, or other attire at school.

You should examine your child’s head, especially behind the ears and the nape of the neck, for crawling lice.


Keep an eye out for uneven shoulders or hips and make sure your child gets regular scoliosis checkups at their annual physical.


Changes in behavior, academic problems, anxiety, depression, and self-harm are all signs of bullying. Many children do not seek help or notify adults about being bullied.

Poor vision

If you notice your child squinting, tilting their head, holding books or devices too closely, or having headaches, those are some signs that your child may have a vision problem.


Dr. Kettler encourages families to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines related to COVID-19, vaccinations, and wearing face coverings. He added, “In addition to face coverings and social distancing, take added protective measures such as teaching good hygiene. Proper handwashing and covering your mouth when you sneeze are important as students return to school.”

The CDC recommends a face covering for children (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.

Flu and other infections

Experts at Johns Hopkins University recommend that all children get vaccinated against influenza annually. To help protect them and others against infections, teach children not to share things like lip balm, eating utensils, or drinking glasses. Follow the same precautions you would for COVID-19 and keep children home from school when they do not feel well.

Stress and anxiety

Many children will need support and time to adjust to being back at school. After over a year of many being homebound, experiencing loss and isolation, be aware of not just the physical concerns of your children but also the mental concerns.

Practice separating with a routine to help with separation anxiety after a year of families being together. Emphasize safety measures and let children know what schools are doing to keep them healthy.

Many children just need support and time to adjust, but if children need further support, they can work with a therapist, school counselor, a nurse, as well as teachers to make sure everyone is on the same page.