Back to School Health Tips from New York-Presbyterian Queens Head of Pediatrics

August 10, 2018

NEW YORK – As the long days of summer come to a close and families prepare for their children to go back to school, Dr. Joseph J. Abularrage, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, offers the following tips for a healthy and safe school year.

“As summer ends, it is important to teach your children healthy habits that they will carry through the school year,” said Dr. Abularage. “Children should continue staying active, eat three healthy meals a day, and get back into the habit of going to bed earlier to get the right amount of sleep each night.”

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens’ Dr. Abularrage provides the following tips concerning children’s sleep schedule, backpacks, nutrition and overall health.


Set up a consistent sleep schedule. During the summer, children may grow accustomed to both falling asleep and waking at later times. About a week or two before school starts, gradually alter bed times until your child is used to his/her school year sleep schedule.

Take away mobile or tablet devices before bed. Smart phones and tablets emit “blue light,” which gives our body a false signal that it is morning, making it difficult to fall asleep.

Make sure your child is sleeping enough. A study from the National Sleep Foundation has shown that the recommended sleep for preschoolers (three to five years old) is 10-13 hours, and school-aged children (ages 6-13 years old) is 9-11 hours. Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning as well as they can.


Make sure your child wears their backpack properly. Children should always use both straps on their backpack. Wearing a backpack with just one strap can put too much stress on certain parts of the body, leading to lower back pain or poor posture.

Monitor the weight of your child’s backpack. Make sure your child is not carrying too much in his/her backpack. If you think your child is carrying too much home, talk to your child’s teachers on ways to reduce the load. Go through the backpack with your child every week to remove unnecessary items to keep it lighter and easier to carry.


Make sure your child eats breakfast. Children who eat a nutritious breakfast everyday function better. Having a full breakfast that contains some protein can help increase a child’s concentration, energy and improve their grades. Make sure your child eats three healthy meals a day and does not skip breakfast.

Look into what food choices are available in school, in and out of the cafeteria. When you visit the school, look at the vending machines, school stores and snack carts to see what is available. Schools should stock healthy choices like fruit, low-fat dairy products, water, and 100% fruit juice.

Consider drinks other than soft drinks on a regular basis. Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. In fact, drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by up to 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water, 100% fruit juice boxes and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.

Overall Health

Schedule a physical. Remember, every child, regardless of athletic participation, should be getting an annual physical. If your child is an athlete, you should set up a sports physical before the school year, so your child can join their team with little to no obstacles.

Keep your children active. Fewer than half of America’s youth meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Children need 60 minutes of vigorous to moderate intensity activity a day. Make sure to work in exercise or vigorous play for your child outside of school.

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, located in Flushing, NY, is a community teaching hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medicine, serving Queens and metro New York residents. The 535-bed tertiary care facility provides services in 14 clinical departments and numerous subspecialties. Annually, 15,000 surgeries and 4,000 infant deliveries are performed at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. With its network of affiliated primary and multispecialty care physician practices and community-based health centers, the hospital provides approximately 162,000 ambulatory care visits and 124,000 emergency service visits annually. For more information, visit nyp.org/queens


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