Back to school? This local health expert answers your important questions


IMG 9716 1 Back to school? This local health expert answers your important questions
Kindergarten rocks! Photo via Patience Itson for Bham Now

August is here which means it’s time for students and parents across Birmingham to get ready for all things back-to-school. From health tips to required forms and vaccines, we spoke with DaVida Spann, CRNP at American Family Care to get answers to your top back-to-school questions. Here’s what we learned.

1. What should students do to keep themselves free from illnesses like COVID-19, flu, colds, etc. during the school year? 

bookbag, school, backpack
Washing backpacks is a great way to keep germs away during the schoool year. Photo via Scott Webb/Unsplash

Having my daughter go to in-person school during the 2020-2021 school year (a.k.a, the year we wish never happened), was nerve-racking. Every day when she’d come home from what I dubbed “the germ pit”, I’d instantly become the sanitation police. I mean, come on, schools are pretty germy places without a pandemic going on, so during one… yikes.

So one thing I did each and every day after school was wash the clothes my daughter had worn that day, along with her backpack and lunchbox. To say I felt paranoid is an understatement. But, it turns out I wasn’t crazy after all. 

“[Bookbags and clothes] should be washed or disinfected upon returning home from school to prevent the spread of viruses, a.k.a. ‘School Cooties.’”

DaVida Spann, CRNP, American Family Care

2. What vaccines are required to attend school? 

shot, vaccine
Do you know which vaccines are required for your school? Photo via National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

Now, onto the topic that’s been on everyone’s mind and social feeds for the past year and a half… vaccines. No, we won’t solely be talking about COVID-19 vaccines.

When you start school for the very first time or begin at a new school, certain vaccinations may be required.

Which ones are needed before entering school?

According to Spann, it depends on which school you attend. But, in most cases, she stated that the following vaccines are typically required:

Wondering about COVID-19 vaccines?

Currently, many colleges and universities are requiring it for students who plan to attend classes in person.

For kids ages 12+, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available. This vaccine, along with others, is easy to get.

American Family Care, for instance, takes walk-in patients for all vaccinations, including Flu Shots and COVID-19. Just plan ahead and contact your nearest location first to ensure they have the necessary vaccines available at the time of your visit.

3. Are physical exams required before entering school? 

UAB student sitting at desk
College life in Birmingham. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Another thing Spann mentioned while discussing school-required vaccinations was that many colleges and universities also require students to have a pre-entrance physical examination. 

During your physical, students will need to have a doctor fill out the required paperwork, so it can be submitted to their school prior to the beginning of the semester.

American Family Care sees a lot of walk-in patients who need a pre-entrance physical examination before entering college. No appointment necessary, just walk in, provide the staff with your school’s requested paperwork and you’ll be on your way to campus life in no time. 

4. My child plays a team sport, do they have to get a physical before the school year begins?

soccer, sports
Get your sports physical before the school year starts. Photo via American Family Care

The answer is yes. Many sports teams require kids to undergo a physical before the school year begins. 

Why? According to American Family Care, these exams asses your kiddos’ health to ensure they’re physically fit enough to participate in athletic activities. 

So before students hit the field, diamond, court or other, they need to find out what health appointments and forms are required before the school year begins. 

You don’t have to wait around for an appointment, either. What’s great about American Family Care is that they take walk-ins for, well, everything—including sports physicals. Just show up and their staff will take care of the rest.

5. For students who ride the bus, are there any health tips to know?

school bus
Bus riders should also take health precautions. Photo via Meritt Thomas/Unsplash

“Students should safe distance if possible. If they can sit one student per seat with a row in between, that would be the most beneficial. 

This is sometimes not a possibility with the amount of students on school buses. So, if they cannot safely distance in this way, use hand sanitizer and wear a mask.”

DaVida Spann, CRNP, American Family Care

6. Are there any other health tips parents and students should know before starting the new school year?

Parents and students should frequently check the CDC website to ensure they have the most up-to-date information concerning themselves and the well-being of their children.”

DaVida Spann, CRNP, American Family Care

Spann also stated that it’s important to “have a good hygiene practice. Handwashing, safe distancing, staying home if sick or exposed, routine sanitizing of daily use items (i.e., backpacks) and taking vitamins (i.e., Zinc, Vitamin C).”

For more back-to-school health tips and more, visit American Family Care’s website and follow them on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn

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