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4 tips for a safe back-to-school experience

Though young children may want summer to last forever, the world isn't always about pool parties and riding horseback into the sunset. August is officially the start of school in huge swathes of the country, a time to make learning and educational advancement a priority once again.

But a student's welfare should always be a top priority as well, and that's why the National Safety Council uses August to celebrate Back to School Month. If you want your little student to have the best school year possible, consider these four safety tips:

"Always do a thorough survey of the school's playground before the year begins."

1. Play hard and safe
Back to school for many kids means a return to daily playground use, and that raises its own slew of safety concerns. Before letting your child on any piece of playground equipment, make sure to do a thorough survey, looking for hazards  like structural issues, whether there is shade nearby and if there's an absorbent material like sand underneath. You also want to dress kids in clothes that are optimal for playing, and that means items that are nonrestrictive. Lastly, teach your kids about proper playground etiquette, like taking their time and saying "excuse me."

2. Consider transportation 
Though the rates have dropped over the years, the National Center for Safe Routes to School reported that over 13 percent of school-aged children (ages 5 to 14) still walk or bike to school. If your child is among that group, there are a few safety rules to keep in mind (per the American Academy of Pediatrics):

  • Bicyclists need to wear helmets and brightly colored clothes at all times.
  • Those walking should only cross at lighted intersections or with assigned guards.
  • Bike riders must always use proper hand signals and know the rules of the road.
  • Guide your walking student to school on day one to get him or her used to the routine.

3. Train your children
Whether before or after school, there are certain dangers that each student faces. To address these issues, the American Red Cross suggested a few basic but effective tips. For one, all children should know how to get in touch with their parents. That means both the phone number and address. It's also a good idea for every child to know how to contact 911 and to use that number only for emergencies. Lastly, stranger danger is an essential concept, and no child should accept rides or favors from people they don't know. Many families rely on passwords in case such an issue arises.

4. Get vaccinated! 
Back to school is also a good opportunity to make sure your children are up-to-date on all their immunizations. It's important to always follow the guide as outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a lack of attention that can have the most dire consequences: In 2013, 90 percent of childhood flu deaths were among kids  who were unvaccinated. Younger students, those between the ages of four and six years old, will need to get the following shots:

  • Influenza
  • IPV
  • Varicella
  • DTaP
  • MMR

It's also important parents recognize certain side effects that accompany many vaccines, including fever, mild rash, swollen neck glands, limb soreness, fatigue, coughing and headaches.

To get your child's latest round of vaccines, you can head to your nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. With locations across the Eastern Seaboard, CareWell is your go-to source for a safe and healthy back to school process.

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