It is the time of year when people of all ages are returning to classrooms. They will be exposed to new experiences and ideas but also higher risk of exposure to viruses/illness and stress. Here are some tips for students of all ages to ensure a healthy and successful time in school:

  • Vaccinations are the best course for preventing illness. In addition to the vaccines recommended by your doctor, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age.
  • Sleep is essential to keep children (and adults) focused throughout the day. Adults need about eight hours of sleep, while young children often need more. It’s important to set a bedtime that ensures everyone gets enough sleep and to keep a consistent schedule.
  • To avoid getting sick and to prevent children from bringing germs home, it’s important to teach children to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating.
  • A healthy diet can help children grow and learn more effectively, as well as keep everyone’s immune systems primed to fight off illness. Avoid junk food and soft drinks, and consider packing children’s lunches with healthy snacks.
  • Going back to school is stressful for both parents and students of all ages; for some children, it may be a new sensation. Help manage stress by talking to children (or encouraging adult students to talk to someone) about anything bothering them and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule. Schoolwork is important, but it is essential for mental health to relax, play, and spend time with family.
    • A significant new stress for students and teachers returning to school is the atmosphere of fear that has emerged in the wake of mass shootings at schools and other venues throughout the United States. Simulated active shooter drills have been shown to contribute to trauma rather than relieve fears, and policies of harsher discipline and armed school staff increase the likelihood that people are exposed to violence
    • It is imperative that children feel they can trust the adults in their lives and be connected as a community. An authoritative approach of structure, oversight, consequences, and support can help children learn responsibility for their behavior and how to reconnect with others; as opposed to an authoritarian environment of punishment, control, and containment which hardens a school instead of making it a better place with less violence and fewer problems.
    Student backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20% of a student’s body weight, and should be adjusted properly to the bottom of the pack so it sits at their waist.  Encourage students to use both shoulder straps; slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and hurt their back. If your student has a

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August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in the United States. This is the time of year when children and teenagers are heading back to school, toddlers are entering preschools or daycare programs, and many adults are heading into college or continuing their careers. Regardless of the situation, it is important to be aware of the need for getting vaccinated year round.

Vaccines are a vital part of healthcare at all stages of life and offers the best protection available against many potentially devastating illnesses. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages parents to follow an immunization schedule for babies and young children, protecting them from 14 life-affecting diseases. Pre-teens and teenagers should begin to innoculate against meningococcal diseases (meningitis or septicemia) and HPV (Human Papillomavirus, which can lead to cancer). Adults should continue to protect themselves with a yearly flu shot, tetanus updates, and later in life the shingles vaccine.

An important element of immunization awareness is to protect our populations through “

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Photo by Matteo Paganelli

July has been Minority Mental Health Month since 2008. Back in May we addressed mental health awareness, but there are factors affecting mental health that are particular to minority communities. People of color, immigrants and their families, LGBTQIA people, and other underrepresented groups face unique struggles in regard to mental illness in the United States.

Everyone has stress and difficult emotions on occasion, and this is completely normal. Mental illness, however, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect relationships or job performance, and is caused by any number of complex interactions within the human brain. Mental illness can range from anxiety or mood disorders like depression, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, eating disorders, or addictive behaviors. Minority communities are disproportionately affected and experience different levels of care compared to heterosexual/cisgender/white populations. Discrimination and implicit bias from healthcare providers is associated with higher rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide in patients of color.

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July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month. Cleft palate or craniofacial defects affect thousands of infants, children, teens, and adults in the United States each year — 4400 infants are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate and 2650 are born with a cleft palate alone. While some people are born with congenital anomalies, others are burned or otherwise injured in accidents or diagnosed with various diseases that affect the mouth, head, neck, or skin.

Craniofacial defects are conditions present at birth that affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face. Treatments and services for children with craniofacial defects can vary depending on the severity of the defect, the presence of associated syndromes or other birth defects, as well as the child’s age and other medical or developmental needs. Children with certain craniofacial defects are at a greater risk for physical, learning, developmental, or social challenges. Recent

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by Mark A. Kelley, MD

This blog that we are sharing for National Stay Out of the Sun Day originally appeared on HealthWebNavigator.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Here are some facts:

    • Over 3 million Americans are treated for skin cancer every year.
    • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. 
    • Skin cancer is preventable and easy to detect.  
    • When caught early, this cancer is usually curable. 
    • Some types of skin cancer can be fatal.  

    Skin cancer is caused by sunlight damage to the skin. The only way to prevent it is to stay out of the sun, or block the sun’s rays.

    People with fair skin are more vulnerable to skin cancer. Those with dark complexions have some natural protection since their skin filters out some of the sun’s rays. Nonetheless, people of color can still get skin cancer. 

    The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage the DNA of skin cells. These cells may grow abnormally and eventually become cancerous. This transformation may evolve slowly over many years or may occur earlier in life, particularly if sunlight exposure has been intense.  

    Sunlight can also lead to another problem premature wrinkling of the skin. Sun worshippers believe that a tan is healthy. In reality, a suntan is a sign of the skin injury. If it

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