Moffitt offers Back to School tips for parents

July 24, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. – Doctors and researchers at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute can offer advice to parents to make sure their child starts school off on the right foot.

Vaccinations: Dr. John Greene, Moffitt’s Chief of Infectious Disease recommends children get vaccinated for the flu. “Children can become ill enough to miss several days of school,” says Greene. “And some can develop severe secondary bacterial infections following the flu that could be life threatening.” Greene also says some children receive antibiotics which may be unnecessary and could be prevented with the vaccine not to mention the reduced risk of spreading the virus to their family and friends since children are frequently the most likely age group to be a vector for transmission of infection.

Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., Program Leader of Moffitt’s Risk Assessment, Detection and Intervention Program contributed to three of the four female vaccine trials that led to the licensure of Gardasil, Merck’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The FDA recently approved the vaccine for women and girls ages 9 to 26. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and can sometimes lead to cervical cancer.

Food and Nutrition: Theresa Crocker, MS, RD, LD/N, one of Moffitt’s clinical/research dieticians says physical activity and healthy eating habits are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. As parents, being a good role model can help to instill healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.

  1. Serve breakfast every day.

Kids that eat breakfast are able to concentrate during the day and score better on tests.

  1. Eat a rainbow.

Serve different colored fruits and/or vegetables with all of your meals.

Try a new fruit or vegetable: Have your kids go shopping with you and pick out something they would like to try.

Keep washed and precut fruits and vegetables handy for snacking.

  1. Choose low fat dairy products for children over two years old.
  2. Try flavored water, 100% juice or low fat milk instead of soda.
  3. Be active as a family.

Go for a walk or hike. Try roller or ice-skating together.

  1. Don’t forget that activity counts with chores, too.

Dance while dusting, take the dog for a walk or help to wash the car.

  1. Buy gifts and toys that promote activity like balls, sports equipment and activity toys and limit time watching television and playing computer and video games.

Medication Dispensed at School: In a survey conducted by Phil Johnson, Moffitt’s Director of Pharmacy, results show schools do not have the proper resources to properly dispense medication, that they lack national standards and that schools are not recognized as part of the health care facility. Johnson authored an article about the study which was published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. The article points out medication safety and school resource concerns that affect the health of children, and their ability to perform optimally as students. This is only the second major study of its kind ever done. Johnson has also put together a Medication Use Resource Manual that is in all Florida schools, and also in several schools throughout 20 states. For a Web version of the manual go to

Sun Safety: "80 percent of your whole lifetime of sun exposure occurs before you're 18 years old. Most of the damage of the sun occurs in your youth. No matter how careful you are as an adult, you can't undo the damage you did as a kid," says Dr. Vernon Sondak, Moffitt’s Division Chief of Cutaneous Oncology. Sondak also says it's important that kids learn sun safety. Parents should make sure their kids are wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen after several hours in the sun, especially after the person has been sweating or if the person has gone swimming. Sondak recommends these two Web sites which have information on sun safety.

Injury: Caroline Lieberman, PT, DPT, Manager, Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, has tips for avoiding injury. School age children are now experiencing problems that were previously only seen in middle aged and older individuals, such as back pain and repetitive strain injuries. The two main culprits are improper backpack wear and more time at computers with bad posture.

Tips for safer backpack use:

1. Make sure backpack weighs no more than 10-15% of body weight.

2. Get backpack with multiple compartments to help distribute the weight evenly among the entire pack.

3. Make sure child wears backpack on mid-back, hanging no lower than 4" below waistline.

4. Have child either carry backpack over both shoulders or use a pack with wheels; carrying backpack over one shoulder leads to postural imbalances and susceptibility to muscle strain.

Tips for computer ergonomics:

1. Take frequent stretch breaks; don't sit at computer for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Prolonged static postures set a body up for strain and pain; get up, march in place, stretch your neck, back, shoulders and wrists.

2. Eyes should be level with the screen; adjust the chair or desk to make sure this is achieved. Improper alignment of monitor can lead to eye strain, neck pain and tension headaches.

3. Feet should be flat on floor and knees should be at a 90 degree angle; this may mean using a stool or other object under feet, if child is at an adult work station.

4. Children should also use a kid-sized mouse. A regular mouse for the adult hand can lead to repetitive strain injury in the wrist and hand.

In 2001, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute earned NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center status in recognition of its excellence in research and contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Additionally, Moffitt is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a prestigious alliance of the country’s leading cancer centers, and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Hospitals for cancer. Moffitt’s sole mission is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.