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Experts share advice for keeping kids healthy as they return to school

As the school year begins, kids are exposed to a lot of new things — friends, concepts and even new sicknesses.

DES MOINES, Iowa — As kids go back to school, they're exposed to a lot of new things. Unfortunately, it includes new ways they can get sick.

Parents in Iowa have been busy setting up their children for a successful school year, but health professionals are encouraging families to prioritize health this year to keep kids in the classroom and out of the doctor's office, 

Dr. Robert Kruse, who serves as the State Medical Director for Iowa Health and Human Services, says that the first thing parents can do is make sure their child is fully immunized.

"We know as kids go back to school, it’s important to stay healthy and stay active and up to date with their immunizations," Kruse said.

Kids of all ages often get to stay up later and sleep in during the summer, so Krause recommends getting them back on a normal schedule earlier rather than later. 

"Ideally, you should develop a bedtime routine that's consistent to help your child settle down and fall asleep," he added. "For example, that could include having a bath or shower, but also another big factor is having your child turn off those electronic devices well before bedtime."

Iowa HHS also puts a focus on diet, which they say is just as important as good sleep. According to Krause, most children consume almost half of their daily calories at school. 

Dr. Aaron Ballantyne, a pediatrician at Blank Children's Hospital, emphasized that just like physical health, youth mental health is another issue that can’t be ignored during back-to-school season.

“As you start to address to the stressors of a school year, we just to see more people struggling with anxiety or with depression," Ballantyne said. "Knowing that they might be at risk for some of those mental health struggles, they may need some support, either from you or coming in to chat with one of their docs.”

Overall, keeping an open line of conversation with kids and making their health a priority will go a long way this school year. 

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