As the school year is about to begin, the Beterem-Israel Center for Child Safety and Health organization noted that 27 children died from unintentional injury during the two-month summer vacation compared to 18 during the same period last year and 23 in the summer of 2012. Of the total this season, eight were killed in road accidents and 11 drowned.
Beterem director Orly Silberger said that even without the effects of Operation Protective Edge, the summer was deadly to children and that she hoped that with youngsters back in school, adults would be more careful to keep an eyes on them.
As for other ways to promote children’s health during the school year, Nili Arbel, head of physiotherapy at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, said that carrying the right schoolbag and wearing the right shoes were important. Schoolbags should have broad straps so as not to cut into the shoulders, have a padded back and contain a number of dividers to balance heavy objects.
The heaviest part should be opposite the middle of the back and not the pelvis; if not, use the buckles to shorten or length the straps. The filled schoolbag should never weight more than 15 percent of the child’s weight.
If placed on wheels, there is less of a burden on the back, but it is less suited to go up and down stairs and requires the child to pull it with one arm behind him. Arbel recommends that the child alternate arms to balance out the effort.
Shoes should be rounded and broad in the front rather than pointed, and be made of flexible material. They should be large enough for the socks to fit without pressure.
Dr. Meir Neufeld, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, suggested that every child entering first grade undergo an eye examination so he can properly see everything on the board. The most common problem at this age is the need for glasses for distance vision or astigmatism (an optical defect in which vision is blurred because the eyes are unable to focus an object into a sharp-focused image on the retina).
All children should learn to do their homework and use computers at a proper distance and with enough light, he said. After about three-quarters of an hour of reading, the child should rest his eyes by looking at a distance for 10 minutes.
Adina Ben Aharon, head of nutrition and diet at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, recommended starting the school year by planning children’s meals for a week in advance.
They should not leave the house without having a nutritious breakfast, even if it is a bowl of cereal and milk with the least amount of sugar and the most amount of whole grains or a whole-grained piece of bread with a healthy spread.
For a mid-morning snack, they should get a sandwich with low-fat cheese, tuna, an omelet or hard-boiled egg and vegetables and a piece of fruit.
It is best to prepare these the night before and keep them in the refrigerator until they leave. Yogurt, dried fruit, granola and other healthy snacks are preferable to junk food. Give them a bottle of cold water rather than sweetened drinks.
Prof. Asher Tal of Soroka’s pediatrics department and sleep disorders clinic said that elementary school children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night to function properly in school. In high school, pupils should get nine hours of sleep. It is best that they avoid sleeping longer than 45 minutes during the day and not later than 5 p.m. to get a good night’s sleep.
In the afternoon, it is best if they get some physical activity outdoors such as bike riding or playing ball games instead of just sitting in front of the TV or computer, he concluded.