“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2011: Part II

If you are someone who takes care of kids in any way, shape or form (which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this) one phrase has probably dominated your world for the past couple of weeks: “back-to-school”. It is likely that you have not spent a day, opened a newspaper or a journal or gone to the sites you typically visit online without seeing these words staring back at you in an article offering you advice on: “How can you best prepare your kids”, “The 101 things you should know about your child’s health and/or safety before you send them back to school…” etc.

Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing… With so many articles and so much information it can be a bit overwhelming at times. With that in mind, I’ve done a little searching and pulled together a “best of” health and safety tips across all the expert information I’ve found. While last week’s back-to-school health and safety tips focused on everything to consider before they head off to school, today’s tips focus on what you need to know to send them off and make sure they return safely. Hopefully it will save everyone a little time that they could be otherwise be using to get 5 more minutes (or 1 extra hug) with their kids. (*Please note: as with my last post, I am sourcing other author’s tips and will cite all references below – all copyrights, credit and thanks belong to them)

Heading to School:

Getting on the Bus Safely:

  • When the bus arrives, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road until you are five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus. Then you can cross the street.
  • Be sure the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
  • Never walk behind the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up first because the driver may not be able to see you.

While on the bus:

  • When on the bus, find a seat and sit down. Loud talking or other noise can distract the bus driver.
  • Never put head, arms or hands out of the window.
  • Keep aisles clear—books or bags are tripping hazards and can block the way in an emergency.
  • At your stop, wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat, then walk to the front door and exit, using the handrail.

Getting off the Bus:

  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road until you can turn around and see the driver. Make sure the driver can see you.
  • Wait for a signal from the driver that it’s safe before beginning to cross…then, walk across the road keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
  • Stay away from the wheels of the bus at all times.

Walking to school:

  • Walk to school with a group of kids and always have a responsible adult with you.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing the traffic.
  • The safest place to cross is at a street corner or intersection.
  • If you are 10-years-old or younger, you need to cross the street with an adult. Before you step off the curb, stop and look all ways to see if cars are coming. When no cars are coming, it is safe for you to cross, but look left-right-left as you do and hold the adult’s hand.
  • Walk, don’t run. This gives time for drivers to see you before you enter the roadway.
  • Don’t dart out in front of a parked car. The driver of the car coming down the street will not be able to see you.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider starting a “walking school bus,”  in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.

Riding a bike to school:

  • Always wear your helmet and make sure it fits correctly. The helmet should fit low on your forehead so that two fingers fit between it and your eyebrows.
  • To ride safely, you need to know the “rules of the road”. Ride on the right side of the road in a single file line in the same direction as other vehicles and come to a complete stop before crossing streets. Wait for a driver’s signal before crossing the street.
  • Wear bright colors during the day and right before the sun rises or sets.
  • Riding at night can be dangerous. You should have a white light on the front of your bicycle and a red reflector on the back. You also can get lights and reflective materials to put on your shoes, helmet and clothing.

By the Way – Here’s a great brochure by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that uses graphics and humor to teach little kids how to be safe on their way to school.

Teen Driving:

  • Graduated Driver Licensing allows teens to practice driving skills in low risk situations, moving through driver license stages with gradually increasing responsibility. GDL reduces teen driver crashes and deaths by up to 40%. You can implement life-saving GDL practices in your home by following these tips:
    • Extend the learner’s permit period until at least 6 months of practice has passed.
    • Set a nighttime driving restriction – no unsupervised driving after 10pm.
    • Set a passenger restriction – no one younger than 18 allowed during a teen’s first 12 months of driving.
    • Ban cell phone use and make safety belts mandatory while driving. Prohibit alcohol – zero tolerance for underage drivers.

During the School Day:

Eating during the day:

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. With advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Restrict your child’s soft drink consumption.

Bullying:

  • “Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, or over the Internet”. The American Academy of Pediatrics has detailed guidelines on managing bullying from the perspective of the child being bullied, the child who is the bully and the bystander. Across all 3 categories, what is consistent is involving a parent or another adult to develop a proactive solution. Rather than try and abbreviate this section, if this is an issue for your child, well documented and excellent guidelines can be sourced here.

School Sports

  • Acclimate children to hot weather workouts by gradually increasing time outdoors about ten days to two weeks before official practice begins to help prevent heat injuries.
  • Make sure children drinking plenty of fluids and take frequent breaks: every 10-15 minutes while playing outdoor sports. Also make sure they wear light clothing and limit their exposure to the sun in the hottest part of the day. Apply towels soaked in ice cubes and water to the head and neck to stay cool.
  • When heat illness is suspected, move the athlete into the shade or coolest area nearby. Try to cool them as quickly as possible by exposing the skin to ice/cold water and cool circulating air.
  • Young athletes with asthma should use preventative inhalers 20-30 minutes before exercise, do a gradual warm-up and should have a rescue inhaler available to them during practices and during competition.
  • Make sure children wear a well-fitted helmet if they play football, softball or baseball to prevent severe injuries such as concussions.
  • Remind children to immediately tell the coach or trainer if they feel dizzy or have a lapse in memory after taking a blow to the head. They should not return to the same practice, game or contest and should be evaluated by a physician prior to return to play.

Keeping them safe at school:

  • Ask your child about safety in his or her school. Where do they feel most safe? Least safe? Why?
  • Identify comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns. Do students have at least one adult and/or method through which they would feel comfortable reporting safety concerns at school?
  • Examine access to your school. Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside (while still allowing children to exit from the inside in an emergency)? Does faculty know who is in their school?
  • 5 excellent questions that your school’s crisis management team should know the answer to – if not, get involved:
    • How do you dial 9-1-1 from the school phones? Do you need to get an outside line first?
    • What is the actual street address of the school if asked by a 9-1-1 dispatcher?
    • If your school’s nearby walking evacuation site is a community church, does someone have the keys to get in if no one from the church is there when you arrive?
    • How long does it really take to mobilize your school bus drivers in the middle of the day if you need to evacuate multiple buildings?
    • Have you ever trained students NOT to open doors to people on the outside trying to get into the school?

After School:

Getting home from school safely and staying that way:

  • Make sure your child walks home with a group of friends or a responsible adult.
  • Make sure to have an adult at the bus stop after school to ensure the kids get home safely.
  • Make a code word that will be used when someone else they do not know will pick them up. Every time you have someone pick your child up from school they have to know your secret code word or your child will not get in the vehicle.
  • Let them know that if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or is following them they should call 911 and find a safe place – go back to school, to the police, or to a friend’s home as quick as possible.
  • Along those lines – teach your children “No, Go, Yell, Tell”: Say No! loudly if they feel they’re in danger; Go! run fast and far to the nearest safe place; Yell! as loudly as they can while they run; Tell! a trusted adult exactly what happened as soon as they reach safety.
  • If they are going to be alone in the afternoons, teach them to go straight home, lock the door and only open it for people with permission to enter the house. Never open the door to delivery people.
  • They should never tell someone on the telephone or on the internet that they are home alone. If asked about mom/dad say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”

So folks, I know it was a long list, but I hope it’s one you’ll find useful. Until next time, keep them healthy and keep them safe…

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As we did with “Best of” Back to School Health and Safety Tips 2011: Part I, we’d like to send out our thanks and recognition to some very smart folks for some really terrific advice:

  1. Waiting for the Bus, While on the bus, Getting off the Bus, Walking to school and Riding a bike to school: (Traveling to School: Safety tips to share with your children: National Safety Council)
  2. Teen Driving: (Teen Driving Safety: Graduated Driver Licensing saves lives: National Safety Council)
  3. Eating during the day and Bullying: (Back to School Tips: American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
    *(Note: our thanks to Kelly from Educator Labs and her student Robbie for finding us an updated link for this)
  4. School Sports (Children Should Rely on Safety Equipment to Prevent School Sports Injuries: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center)
  5. Keeping them safe at school: (Parents & School Safety – Can you Prevent Another Tragedy? How Safe is Your Child’s School: Ken Trump, president of National School Safety & Security Services)
  6. Getting home safe and staying that way bullets #1,2,3,4: (Children’s safety tips to remember for back to school: Melina Ann Collison, St Louis Crime Examiner, July 27, 2009)
  7. Getting home safe and staying that way bullets #5: (Living Safe – Teach your children “No, Go, Yell, Tell”: Katherine Cabaniss Crime Stoppers)
  8. Getting home safe and staying that way bullets #6,7: (After-school safety tips from the American Red Cross)
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About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical Devices and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team

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