Tips for back-to-school safety, how to check the air quality in your community, recognizing juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

The back-to-school season can be an exciting and anxious time. As a parent, you can teach your child a few lessons, and take a few precautions yourself, to put your mind at ease when children leave home to go back to the classroom.

From the lunch container you buy to teaching your child about playground safety, you can do a lot to prevent your child from falling ill or getting hurt.

"Parents need not worry about sending their children back to school. By doing a few little things to ensure your child's safety, you'll put your worries to rest and allow yourself to have a fun and stress-free start to the school year," says Dorothy Drago, child product safety expert and author of "From Crib to Kindergarten: The Essential Child Safety Guide."

Drago offers the following tips to consider as your child goes back to school:

Food safety

When packing a lunch for your child, make sure you keep items that need to be cold (like cheese or yogurt) at the proper temperature by storing them in an insulated container. Products that keep foods and beverages at the proper temperature inhibit the growth of potentially dangerous bacteria.

Transportation safety

Make sure to check with the school on approved walking or biking routes. Many schools are making efforts to communicate with parents about this issue to encourage active lifestyles while also keeping kids safe.

If you are buying a new bike helmet for your child before school, make sure it fits correctly and refer to the helmet wearing instructions to ensure the safest ride. If you bike with your kids, wear a helmet to set a good example.

Also, remember that safely crossing the street is not always such an easy task for children. Find out if the school has crossing guards on your child's route to school.

Product safety

Make sure any products, from art supplies to lunch boxes, are certified under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

"Independent testing results like the CPSIA-required compliance certificates are a smart and easy way for parents to validate that the products they purchase meet current safety regulations and standards," Drago says.

This information should be available on the product's packaging or detailed on the company's website.

Playground safety

Playgrounds are fun areas for kids of all ages, but they can be dangerous. Take a look at how much protective surfacing is under equipment. There should be at least 9 inches of mulch, and it should be replenished or respread as needed to ensure that the depth is maintained. Encourage kids to play with the existing play structures and to never add jump ropes or other toys because they may introduce a strangulation risk.

-- ARA

In the News: What is EEE?

Eastern equine encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

The illness is rare in humans, but most cases occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.

Most persons infected with the virus have no apparent illness. Severe cases of EEE (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures or coma.

You can reduce your risk of being infected with EEEV by using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing and staying indoors while mosquitoes are most active.

-- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Did You Know?

A recent survey found that bedbug-related calls to exterminators have risen by 81 percent over the last decade. -- National Pest Management Association

Health Tip: Check air quality

Ground-level ozone is the primary constituent of smog, and sunlight and hot weather cause ground-level ozone to form in harmful concentrations in the air.

Many urban areas tend to have high levels of "bad" ozone, but even rural areas are also subject to increased ozone levels. Check air-quality levels at airnow.gov.

If air quality is bad:

- Reduce the time you are active outdoors.

- Schedule activity for the morning or evening, when ozone levels are usually lower.

- Participate in less-strenuous activities.

-- Environmental Protection Agency

Number to Know: 47

As many as 47 percent of U.S. teachers experience some degree of voice abnormality on any given day. Twenty percent of teachers report missing work due to voice problems, and one in 10 teachers has been forced to leave the profession because of the condition.

-- The American Academy of Otolaryngology

Children’s Health: Know symptoms of JRA

When a child younger than 16 has arthritis, he or she has what doctors call juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. A child may have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis if he or she:

- Experiences unexplained swelling, redness or pain in a joint that may come on suddenly. Joints may be more swollen in the morning or after a nap.

- Is reluctant to crawl or walk, especially early in day.

- Has an unexplained high fever or rash.

- Has additional symptoms, such as irritability, weight loss, slow growth, fatigue or poor appetite.

If you suspect your child has JRA, contact your health care provider.

-- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Senior Health: Obesity moves up need for canes, walkers

Obese older adults are more likely to use walkers, canes and other mobility devices at a younger age, and may run the risk of using them incorrectly, according to new research.

The study followed more than 1,000 individuals, ages 65 and older, and tracked their body weight and use of assistive devices for 10 years.

A third of adults older than 65 use at least one device, and lower body disability is what drives and predicts their use, researchers said.

-- Purdue University

GateHouse News Service