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Vermont pediatrician discusses back-to-school safety

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 6:19 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2020 at 9:25 AM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Back-to-school checkups can be a great way to get a gauge on how healthy students are as they are getting ready to go back to school, but scheduling those before school starts may be tough.

Christine Haines was able to get her children their appointments before the pandemic, so they are set for the school year.

“They are all winter babies except for her, so she had her appointments over the summer, but they were all back in February -- so right before all of this,” said Haines.

But not all parents were able to set up a time.

“If your child is behind on their regular routine checkups, calling your doctor and scheduling an appointment knowing that can take a little bit of time to get scheduled, but having it on the books, can really be a great way to check-in with your doctor and make sure that things are set for this coming year,” said Dr. Leah Costello, a pediatrician with Timber Lane Pediatrics.

Costello says that back-to-school checkups are a great way to ensure children are up to date on all immunizations and are healthy walking back into school day one.

But whether they made it into a checkup before school started, there are still precautions you can take now.

“I have really been encouraging families and my patients to stay home those two weeks before school starts, limit exposure,” said Costello.

She says by limiting exposure to other people before school starts, it sets everyone up on a level playing field and helps kids stay healthy. But staying home is only one level of protection. She says it’s also important for students to return to school with what she calls back to school armor. That armor includes masks, social distancing and hand washing. She has also been telling patients and their families that staying home two weeks before the start of school could be a great way to make sure that students are limiting their exposure to any kind of germs.

“For the majority of kids and families here in Vermont, school is safe and if there is a case, it will be handled very quickly and effectively by the Health Department in a very safe way,” said Costello.

She’s confident that Vermont is in a great place to be letting kids back into the classroom but knows that the stakes are still high.

“Apprehension, nerves, anxiety, those are all normal feelings. Every family is so different and you really need to honor those feelings in you and if you are feeling anxious, reaching out to a trusted care provider like your physician or your nurse practitioner that you trust to talk about risks and benefits,” said Costello.

Costello also says this year the flu shot will be a major part of keeping schools open and everyone in the community healthy.

Haines says a safe return will mean the world to students.

“He really misses school, so he’s the one that really wants to start again. They’re super excited to start, they just need to be around other kids again,” said Haines.

Costello recommends seeking guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics for more information.

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