Healthy returns

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
One of the hardest things about getting my kids back to school is dealing with the changes to their sleep schedules. After spending the summer going to bed late and getting up late, it's tough to get back to the "early to bed and early to rise" routine. What's the best way to help them adjust?

Getting into a routine may be tough at first, but try these tips to help make the shift to an earlier bed time more manageable.

  • Set a regular bedtime for your kids. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time every day can help them establish sleep patterns. Try slowly getting your child back into the school routine by starting a few weeks in advance and gradually adjusting their sleep schedule. Your child should be going to bed and waking up no more than an hour's difference to their normal school schedule one week before school starts.
  • Exercise regularly. But try not to have them exercise right before bed. They should finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Create the right sleeping environment. Studies show that children sleep best in a dark room that is slightly on the cool side.
  • Most kids should fall into a routine within a few weeks, but if you are concerned that something else may be affecting your child's sleep, talk to your family physician or pediatrician.
Dr. Mark Splaingard is the Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric pulmonology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and sleep medicine.

Last year my daughter, just entering the first grade, got so nervous she started getting bad headaches. They eventually went away after it seemed like she got used to school. What caused the headaches and what should I do if they come back again?

Although it's normal to be anxious in any new situation, a few kids develop real physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, associated with the start of school. It's important to remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will all become an everyday routine in no time.

Emphasize the positive things about going back to school, such as hanging out with old friends, meeting new classmates, buying cool school supplies and showing off new clothes (or snazzy accessories if your child has to wear a uniform).

It's also important to talk to kids about what worries them, and offer reassurance. Listen attentively and calmly - with interest, patience, openness and care. If you're concerned that your child's symptoms go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, keep a diary of your child's headaches and other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting that accompany them.

If the headaches continue fairly frequently, such as once a week or more despite a regular sleep schedule, adjustment to school, and good fluid intake, speak with your child's pediatrician.

Dr. Ann Pakalnis is the Director of the Headache Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Her primary clinical and research interests involve the diagnosis and management of headaches, and the identification of co-morbid disorders linked to migraines.

My child's friend was recently diagnosed with melanoma. We didn't realize that someone could get skin cancer at such a young age. Is this common? What can I do to protect my child?

Pediatric cancer specialists at Nationwide Children's Hospital are seeing an increase in the incidence of skin cancer cases among children ages 5 to 16. In the United States alone, the percentage of people who develop melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, has more than doubled in the past three decades.

If there's any good news about skin cancer, it's this: You have the power to substantially lower your family's risk of getting it by protecting your kids from the sun and making sure they understand the importance of year-round sun safety.

Here are a few tips to help keep your children safe:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB coverage.
  • At least 30 SPF is preferred, and the best sunscreens have one of the following three ingredients: avobenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
  • Ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds and air to penetrate skin, so even on a cloudy day, apply sunscreen just as you would on a clear, sunny day.
  • Seek the shade as much as possible.
  • Always be on the lookout for moles or freckles that are changing in character, including color, size and irregular borders. Contact your family physician or pediatrician if you see anything suspicious.
Dr. Jennifer Aldrink is a pediatric surgeon at Nationwide Children's Hospital with a focus in pediatric surgical oncology, including thyroid disorders and melanoma.

Tip of the Month: Pack a Power Lunch

It may seem impossible to find food that both you and your child can agree on, but it's a lot easier than you might think. Here are a few tips to packing a healthy and tasty lunch that will keep your child energized throughout the school day.Include high-energy foods like vegetables, nuts, yogurt, eggs, fruit juices, beans and seeds for an extra lift throughout the day.

  • Try homemade versions of store-bought, lunch combo packs (turkey, string cheese, crackers, fruit cup)
  • Fill small containers with low-fat yogurt and frozen fruit, then freeze until needed.
  • Fill small baggies with a healthy homemade snack mix (dried cereal, peanuts, dried fruit)
  • Try whole-wheat bread, pita pockets or tortilla filled with deli meat or peanut butter.
  • Whatever you choose, remember to include at least three food groups and a variety of flavors to keep it interesting.
Watch Pediatric HealthSource at 5 p.m. Thursdays on 10TV News HD. To learn more about Nationwide Children's Hospital, visit

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