Talking back to school with Trinity Health IHA Medical Group Pediatrics in Chelsea


Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

It’s back to school time and there’s always a lot for students and families to think about, including getting prepared, getting back into a routine that feels good and healthy, and what’s for lunch.

Thinking specifically about health and what it means at this time of year, the Sun Times News (STN) connected with Dr. Emily Heung at Trinity Health IHA Medical Group Pediatrics in Chelsea to ask some back to school health-related questions.

Starting with, what are some basic health tips for back to school preparation?

Dr. Heung: Getting ready to start back at school can be both physically and emotionally stressful for kids and parents, so feeling prepared is the best way to make things easier.

To help stay physically healthy, it is important to maintain good, healthy lifestyle habits. Make sure to pay attention to having good eating, drinking, sleeping, and exercise habits. This will not only help your child feel better physically, having a healthy body will help prevent illnesses as well.

  • Make sure your child is eating a regular, healthy diet and has a good schedule for meals. Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins as much as possible. Aim for 3 moderate-sized meals and 1-2 snacks a day.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids a day and avoid caffeine. Dehydration can cause sluggishness, dizziness, and headaches.
  • Ensure a good sleep schedule and routine. Most school-aged kids should get 8-11 hours of sleep at night (younger kids should even aim for 9-11 hours while older kids should get at least 8-9 hours of sleep per night).
  • Regular activity will help keep your child’s body strong and help him/her maintain a healthy weight. In addition, exercise improves mental health by helping him/her feel good physically and also releases endorphins that improve mood!

From an emotional perspective, it is important for kids to feel comfortable in the school environment they will be in and confident that they can manage the school work/class schedule they will be expected to maintain.

  • Make sure to balance time needed for scheduled after school activities and homework your child will have.
  • For older kids, check in to make sure their class load is appropriate.
  • Save time for relaxation and social activities with friends and family.
  • Eating dinner together as a family can be an important way for parents and kids to stay connected.
  • Assess stress and anxiety levels throughout the year. Offer support emotionally and academically as needed. Help kids talk through things they are worried about. Help them problem solve when they have barriers or stressors.
  • Consider seeking help from a counselor (either at school or in the community) if needed.
Dr. Emily Heung. photo courtesy of Trinity Health IHA Medical Group Pediatrics in Chelsea

In thinking about the different sicknesses that could be going around right now, STN asked Heung if there is anything out there or going on health-wise that families should be aware of.

Dr. Heung: Luckily, most common illnesses are at a low level over the summer. However, these usually pick up soon after school starts. The most common illnesses going around in the fall are viral upper respiratory illnesses (the common cold), strep throat, and gastroenteritis (stomach flu). Influenza (the flu) typically increases around November and is usually highly prevalent in December and January. Make sure to get your flu shot in early fall to help prevent getting sick with the flu! COVID is also likely to continue to spread and may increase once everyone is in school again.

In addition to common medical illnesses, we are seeing a dramatic increase in mental health illnesses. Many kids are suffering from depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Being less social and more isolated, having an increase in irritability, difficulty sleeping, irregular or decreased eating, and unexpected weight loss are some symptoms that may be a sign of a mental health illness. Keep an eye out for these health problems as well and make sure to call your primary care doctor if you are concerned.

This leads to a basic question of, when are well-child visits needed?

Dr. Heung: Routine Well Child Visits are an important part of preventative care. We recommend coming in for regular visits according to the schedule set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For young kids (before school-age), this starts at birth and then continues at 2-4 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months, 3 yrs, and 4 years.

Once kids are school-aged, we recommend a Well Child Visit once a year.

STN asked Heung for advice in getting back into a routine.

Dr. Heung: Start to get back into a good routine well before school starts if possible. Especially important is to make sure your child is getting to bed early enough so that they can get 8-11 hours of sleep even when they need to wake up early for school.

If your child has been going to bed and waking up much later than usual over the summer, start to move their bedtime up by 15-20 minutes a night until they are going to bed at the time they will need to for school.

Have meals at scheduled times at home, and avoid over-snacking throughout the day. Look at drop off and pick up times/procedures and go over these with kids in advance.

Get supplies for school ready and make sure these are packed at least a day or 2 before school starts. Go over what kids will need to remember to pack in their back pack each day.

The final question was what entails a healthy lunch?

Dr. Heung: A healthy lunch should include a balanced meal. Packing or picking food (if eating hot lunch) that includes a wide variety is important, preferably something from every food group. Make sure to include at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal, or even better—both! Pick a combination of foods that include carbohydrates, protein, and some healthy fats. Some good choices can include a meat or peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread, cheese and crackers, a hard-boiled egg, trail mix or granola bar with nuts or seeds, yogurt with fruit (make sure to pack this with an ice pack), or pita and hummus. Left overs or hearty soup heated up and packed in a thermos is a great option, too!

STN thanks Dr. Heung for the help with this article. Trinity Health IHA Medical Group Pediatrics in Chelsea is located at 14288 E. Old US 12, Suite 100. It can be reached at 734-475-9175 or go to


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