WASHINGTON, D.C. — As schools plan for a safe return to campus this year, it is critically important to consider the health and well-being of students and staff, and address issues with COVID-19, mental and physical health, and managing other chronic health conditions. When school health policies and practices are put in place, healthy students can grow to be healthy and successful adults. Learn what parents and teachers can do to help children have a successful school year.
“This return to school season is like no other. Schools must be prepared to protect children from COVID-19, while also addressing a wide array of other pandemic-related challenges returning students are facing,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. “In addition to keeping students safe from COVID-19, they will need to provide safe and supportive school environments to promote student well-being and recovery.”
CDC offers these health tips that will make for a successful school year for students, teachers, school staff and their families.
- Take COVID-19 seriously. Students benefit from in-person learning and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority. CDC has COVID-19 specific guidance for K-12 schools and Colleges and Universities.
- Mental health is important to the learning process. CDC data shows that the pandemic has created significant stress and trauma for children, adolescents, and families. Schools can help promote student well-being with CDC evidence-based strategies like establishing safe and supportive school environments and referring students to appropriate mental and physical health services.
- Routine vaccinations save lives. Getting required vaccines can help protect children and teens as they grow into adulthood. Making sure children get vaccinated is one of the most important things parents can do.
- Washing hands stops germs. Handwashing with soap and water is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of colds, flu, and other diseases to others.
- Eat well, be active, and get enough sleep. Make sure children drink plenty of water, limit sugary drinks, and practice healthy eating at home and school to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight and to support brain development and healthy growth. It’s also important to help kids get the recommended 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, as well as the right amount of sleep every night. Teens need at least 8 hours of sleep per night—younger students need at least 9 hours.
- Be tobacco-free. Youth use of any tobacco product is unsafe. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students. However, youth also report using cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and other tobacco products. Tobacco products contain nicotine which is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain – specifically the areas of the brain that are responsible for learning, memory, and attention. For help to quit, you can talk with your healthcare provider or visit CDC.gov/quit.
- Stay cool in the heat. With above average temperatures in multiple parts of the country, it is important to limit outdoor activity during the middle of the day when the sun is hottest. Wear and reapply sunscreen, seek shade, drink plenty of water, and know how to prevent heat-related illness in athletes.
- Wear helmets and protect your head. Children and adolescents can get a concussion in any number of school settings ranging from school sports activities to the hallway, the playground, and even the cafeteria. Get information on preventing and responding to concussions and supporting students when they return to school after a concussion.
- Help children with special health care needs. The pandemic can present unique challenges for children with special health care needs. CDC has tips for helping these children make the transition back to the classroom.
The bottom line
Healthy students are better learners. Following these health tips can lead students to a successful and healthy school year. For additional information on health and learning, visit CDC’s Healthy Schools site and CDC’s adolescent health page to learn why schools are the right place for a healthy start.
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