Back to School
Paying Heed to the Certain in an Environment of Uncertainty
It’s hard for some of us to believe, but it’s almost back-to-school time again. There’s nothing normal about it, though. In fact, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what back-to-school is going to look like this year, with so many decisions still up in the air around social-distancing restrictions and ongoing talks about the repercussions of the coronavirus. It’s actually a bit chaotic, maybe a bit stressful, and definitely difficult to plan around.
So, in this different environment, this is a different kind of back-to-school feature. Amid the chaos, we wanted to talk about a few things about which we can be certain: Back-to-school time is a reminder to make those annual appointments that affect your and your family’s health and wellness—whether you or your children are going back to school in your living room or at a local school or college. Things like eye exams, dental exams, sports preparation, and the like are still musts, especially amid all of the challenges that come from a little extra snacking in quarantine and lots of eye strain from extensive screen time. Skipping self-care for you and your family can have serious consequences.
“A common misconception is that your vision doesn’t affect your whole body,” said Dr. Carla Ericksen of Beyond Vision LNK. “People need to understand that your eyes help you judge distance and support proper development and maintenance of your motor skills. If there’s something uncorrected in an infant or toddler’s vision system it can lead to delays in their motor development or cause vision-related learning problems.”
To ensure proper development of your children’s vision throughout school years and beyond, Dr. Ericksen recommends taking your infant to see an optometrist at three months of age, then again at six months, and yearly thereafter. Seasonal allergies, dry eye, and vitamin deficiency are a few systemic problems that eye doctors can aid in quicker diagnosis and treatment for youth by coordinating with other health professionals.
“Everyone ‘sees’ differently, so it is hard for children and parents to know if what they are seeing is helping or hurting their school work,” Dr. Ericksen said. “Catching issues like double vision early helps me help them in their school and learning process. With the increased use of digital devices—especially for online school—kids can experience visual overstimulation of their nervous systems. This can lead to irregular sleep, agitation, and even depression. Untreated eye disorders can often lead to a diagnosis of anxiety or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), so I recommend an eye evaluation before starting any new medications because it is difficult for a child to be on a long term medication for the rest of their lives.”
Dr. Ericksen said Beyond Vision has seen an increasing number of cases where a student has near-vision issues due to an undiagnosed sports concussion. Often, a child who saw 20/20 at their last exam has a mild injury, which can then create months of near-vision problems that they are unaware of because it is overlooked as a symptom.
Another major concern that Dr. Ericksen has about today’s students who spend so much time indoors on screens is the risk for long-term vision problems.
“They use digital devices for play, social interaction, and then school work, and it’s too much,” she said. The lack of outdoor play combined with constant near-vision stress can lead to progressive myopia, which puts children at risk for retinal detachment that can cause vision loss as they age. I’ve seen an increase in headaches and migraines in children, often cause by too much blue light without breaks.”
If your children are going to be getting all of their education online this fall, Dr. Ericksen warns that there will likely be increased vision problems. She recommends that parents set boundaries allotting time for work and social communication on digital devices, but reducing play time. In addition, she says, remove devices from bedrooms and shut them off two hours before a child’s bedtime. Parents should encourage students to give their eyes a break from the screen every 20 minutes, remind them to blink, and use a preservative-free artificial tear if they experience dryness. This goes for college students, too. Finally, get outside!
“You need two hours of outdoor exposure daily, instead of living full-time in the 24-inch world,” Dr. Ericksen said. “We’re going to see a lot more focusing problems, irregular sleep issues, and anxiety if all education takes place on digital devices and we restrict our outdoor activities.”
Brushing Up on Dental Health
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a routine dental check-up twice a year, and the start of a new school year helps remind us to keep up with necessary appointments—a checkpoint for good health. It’s crucial to help your children maintain positive dental-care habits today so they can enjoy dental and whole-body health as they grow. Star City Dental is a great place to go for full-service dental care.
“For our team here at Star City Dental, teeth cleanings are an important aspect of dental hygiene and protection,” said Dr. Meghan Hungerford. “Oral health is more than just having a perfect smile. It also has a strong impact on your overall health. During regular check-ups with Star City Dental, you will find teeth cleanings being incorporated to remove any plaque buildup.”
When plaque is left unattended, it promotes tooth decay, gingivitis, and eventually periodontal disease. Plaque and tartar cannot be removed with normal brushing and flossing of teeth because they are hardened deposits that require a tougher but careful removal by a professional. Cleanings also provide Dr. Meghan an opportunity to make an up-close examination of your child’s oral cavity and identify teeth that might be in need of crowns or fillings.
“Having twice-annual dental checkups and cleanings can help keep your gums in good shape and reduce your child’s risk of developing gum disease down the road,” said Dr. Meghan. “Your insurance usually covers these checkups, and not taking advantage of the service could result in you paying more out-of-pocket in the future to fix what could have been a minor or preventable problem now.”
Kicking the Tires
Moving down to foot health, we spoke with Ann Ringlein of Lincoln Running Co., a specialty sports and running shop that works with hordes of students who are cross-country runners in Lincoln. She and her husband are members of the running community and are dedicated to the health of student runners in the area, too. They’re also big fans of cross country and show up to cheer on their young customers at their competitions. When it comes to footwear, though, she warns not to go for the bells and whistles—unless that’s what your child needs.
“The absolute most important consideration in choosing an athletic shoe is that it fits right, especially for running,” Ann said. “That might sound obvious or simple, but it’s often overlooked. Don’t worry about the color or look. It just needs to fit your foot perfectly. Getting the shape of the shoe and their feet all aligned helps them stay healthy running. There’s always new things out there, like the shoes that have plates in them or fancy insoles that are supposed to help you run faster by the way they get you off of your toes, but whether it’s the right shoe for YOU is what matters most.”
Ann said the fitting process starts as soon as someone walks into the store. First, she watches how they walk in and looks for any irregularities. Then they measure the customer’s feet and look at wear on the soles of their shoes.
“We ask runners to bring in their old shoes,” she said. “They’re like a car tire. The bottom part of the show shoes if there’s more wear in one spot. We then look at the shape of their foot and the height of their arch and bring out four or five styles to try. What we always say is that the ones that you notice the least are going to be the best ones for your feet.”
Ann said the most important age to really be sure you’re getting the right fit is probably junior-high students, who are still growing but are starting to get serious about running. If they have the wrong shoes, they’re more susceptible to stress fractures, which will hurt their bodies as they are maturing. Shoes that don’t fit right out of the gate, or that get too small over time, can also mess up children’s toes for a lifetime of discomfort.
“We like to show students and parents all of the options, but we want them to be reasonable about need versus want,” Ann said. “I would rather see them get a good running shoe and a really good pair of cross-country spikes for their particular feet because it can make such a difference in their long-term success and health.”
Southeast Community College has announced that it plans to start its fall semester as scheduled on August 24. All locations, including campuses in Beatrice, Lincoln, and Milford, will have new safety protocols and procedures in place to help keep students safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Precautions include keeping students socially distanced in classrooms and lab spaces and providing hand-sanitizer stations throughout the buildings. SCC also is encouraging students to wear face coverings and will require them when social/physical distancing is not possible. Some instructors also will have Plexiglas podiums in their classrooms as an extra safety measure, and similar shields also have been installed in areas where students and staff interact frequently. However, if for some reason directed health measures and other recommendations warrant a change, classes would be taught in a variety of delivery formats, including onsite, hybrid, and online. The college will notify students of any changes to the delivery format of onsite courses in the event that becomes necessary.
The fact is, uncertainty continues to loom about how many schools will operate—online or in-person. With that in mind, it’s likely to be important to students of all ages to have effective internet service. Two providers in the area say they have been handling the boost in traffic since quarantines began, and they’re ready to pick up the extra as online schools begin again this fall.
ALLO Communications offers high-speed fiber internet access that will meet the needs of any at-home student and family, with speeds starting at 500 Mbps. The company also recently expanded its 2020 ALLO for Education program, which will support local schools via referrals from new residential customers who choose a participating school to receive a $50 donation through September 30.
Kinetic by Windstream offers optimal Wi-Fi access and control for your home or on the go. They also recently announced that they are completing new fixed wireless installations that will make high-speed internet access available to more than 2,300 families in rural areas of Nebraska, as a backup plan for students and parents who might have to continue working from home. Fixed wireless is a newer technology that delivers internet using a wireless antenna to connect two or more fixed locations by radio frequency instead of using cable. More sites will be going on in coming months.
Clearly, the coming school year is full of uncertainty and challenges to keep educating our children and ourselves. As you plan for your family’s school year, don’t forget the annual appointments that will help them stay healthy throughout the challenges. Take a deep breath, and dive in!