As we’re getting ready for the start of the new school year, let’s look at some things that you should consider. Take a few moments to update your kid’s emergency contact info. Don’t count on the school or their cell phones. They need to have an updated emergency contact list in their backpack, with the school and somewhere at home where a babysitter will know where to look. I understand your possible concerns about having this information available, but on the other hand, depending on how your kids go to and from school and activities, there should be some way for first responders (for example) to contact a responsible adult in an emergency.

By the way, I would also encourage you to take this opportunity to go over safety do’s and don’ts with your kids in an age appropriate manner. Go over the contact list so that they know who’s on it and when to use it. If your kids will be carpooling, take the time now to share everyone‘s primary and backup contact information.

I would also prepare and take advantage of the opportunity before school starts to speak to your child’s teachers-to-be as well as lunch monitors and the carpool parents if your child has any special medical concerns such as seizures or allergies. It’s always safer if they know what to do before a crisis happens.

Given how the start of the school season is when we always see a spike in colds, sore throats and ear aches, now’s an excellent time to get your kids back into the habits of hand washing, using tissues, sneezing into their elbows to protect them right from the start. It’s really not paranoid, just smart.

Remember to include tissues for their desk and a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your list of what to prepare for school. And invest in a solid, properly designed backpack to reduce the risk of back problems. Even if the backpack has wheels, there will always be situations where they can‘t avoid lifting or carrying it.

The other thing that I can count on, along with colds at the start of the new school year, is head lice. While not dangerous from a health perspective, they are annoying and you really don’t want to have to deal with it, so remind your kids about not sharing combs or hats. Consider a back-to-school haircut as shorter hair is easier to manage.

Lastly, it‘s worth the effort to get your children (and yourselves) back into the school rhythm of when they go to bed and wake up. If you start the process in advance, it will ease the adjustment for everyone (including you). Get back into the habit of starting the day with enough time for a proper breakfast. Studies have shown that a good breakfast is important if your child is to do their best.

All in all, the start of the school year is an excellent time to set an example for your kids in how to prepare. Done right, it should also save you all from some unnecessary hassles.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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