So long, summer! Greetings, fall!
Whether you’re sad to see the end of sunny summertime or eager to embrace the cooler temps and comforting routine of fall, transitioning between seasons can be challenging.
Cynthia Hovis, MSW, LCSW, CCTP, clinical supervisor of the BJC Employee Assistance Program, shares advice and resources to make the seasonal switch easier:
Times of transition can be challenging emotionally as well as physically. For some, the transition from summer to fall means the fun is over, and that can be sad or discouraging for those who feel they did not get to do all the things they wanted to during the summer.
Making memory crafts, such as collages or scrapbooks, from summer fun mementos can be beneficial. So can starting lists of ideas for next summer’s activities.
For others fall is a time of comfort — a return to routines and structure and delicious baking.
Keeping an organized calendar or planner helps track family activities to keep everyone from feeling overwhelmed.
Often the shortening daylight and anticipation of the coming holiday seasons and preparation involved for them can increase stress. Plan ahead and look to simplify this year — to enjoy each phase of each season.
Find balance in enjoying today as well as planning. Be kind to yourself. Breathe and slow down. Make lists and, most importantly, take each day one step at a time.
Hovis offers some additional resources for a smooth transition into fall:
- 9 ways to transition gracefully into the fall season
- 4 mental health habits to transition smoothly from summer to fall
The start of school is a great time to make sure your kids’ health is in top shape. Here are three things you can do to make sure they have the healthiest school year possible.
1. Get your child the COVID-19 vaccine.
Let’s face it, back-to-school time is back-to-getting-sick time for a lot of kids. With students back on school buses and in classrooms, germs have an easy time spreading.
Most of the time, that results in relatively mild illness, like the common cold or a bout of stomach virus. But COVID-19 has thrown a curveball into the mix.
Although COVID-19 infection tends to have less severe symptoms or can even be asymptomatic in most children and teens, thousands of children across the U.S. have been hospitalized with COVID-19 complications and more than 400 children have died.
Luckily, vaccination has proven to be an extremely effective weapon against severe COVID-19 illness and in June, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended COVID-19 vaccination as safe and effective for all children age 6 months and up.
Having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 can not only reduce your child’s risk of getting the disease, but also reduce the risk of spreading it in school or at home. If your child does get COVID-19, a vaccine can prevent severe disease and keep them out of the hospital.
It’s also important to stay up to date on your kiddos’ — and your — vaccination status by finding out when booster doses are available to you and getting them when eligible.
Vaccination side effects are generally minimal — usually no more than having a sore arm or feeling lethargic for a day or two after receiving the shot. More serious side effects are extremely rare. Although researchers reported a handful of cases of myocarditis (a heart inflammation) in children after being vaccinated, data has since shown that children are much more likely to get myocarditis from COVID-19 itself than from the vaccine.
See what Jason Newland, MD, a Washington University infectious diseases specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, has to say about getting your child the COVID-19 vaccine.
While we’re talking about respiratory illnesses, flu season is just around the corner. So, in addition to getting COVID boosters, don’t forget to have all family members vaccinated against the flu. And now is not the time to discard hand sanitizer. Continue vigilant hand washing and other infection prevention practices and make sure family members stay home when ill.
2. Schedule a well-child check-up or sports physical.
The beginning of the school year is a great time to make sure your child is in good physical health and ready for the challenges of the year ahead.
One of the top concerns for parents is making sure their child’s vaccinations are up to date. Along with the standard measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP), varicella (chickenpox) shots and now, COVID-19 vaccine, your pediatrician may recommend additional vaccinations. Those may include Haemophilus influenza B (HiB), hepatitis A and B, human papilloma virus (HPV) or meningitis, depending on your child’s age and health status.
For more information on what vaccines your child should be getting, visit the CDC’s website.
A well-child visit is a good time to discuss a range of issues, from growth, to eating and weight issues, to chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes, to behavioral problems.
Your pediatrician is a partner with you in keeping your child healthy, so don’t be embarrassed to voice any concern and don’t think you are wasting their time.
If your child plans to play sports during the school year, your pediatrician is the logical choice to do your child’s sports physical. (Many BJC Convenient Care locations also offer sports physicals, and some locations have evening hours for families juggling multiple back-to-school priorities. Visit bjc.org/convenientcare for more information.)
Terra Blatnik, MD, Washington University orthopedic surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, explains the importance of children and teens having a sports physical.
3. Make sleep a priority.
Getting back to classes often means more activity and less sleep for the whole family. Between school, homework, sports, extracurricular activities, socializing — in person and on the internet — kids and their parents may not be making sleep a priority. And everyone’s health can suffer.
Research shows that sleep helps kids do well in school, improves social functioning, prevents illness and injuries, and even prevents obesity, says James Kemp, MD, Washington University pediatric sleep specialist and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Sleep Center director.
“Keep in mind that the amount of sleep children need varies from person to person,” Dr. Kemp says. “If children aren’t sleeping enough, you’ll likely notice warning signs. In older children, that can include taking a nap every afternoon or sleeping for unusually long periods of time on weekends.”
How do you make sure your child is getting the needed amount of sleep once school starts? Here are five back-to-school sleep tips:
1. Have a healthy goal. Calculate how much sleep you and your child need to function well during the day. You might be surprised. (Hint: It’s probably more than you think.) Check out this chart from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Sleep Center:
Age Hours of sleep needed
1-4 weeks old 15-16
1-12 months old 14-15
1-3 years old 12-14
3-6 years old 10-12
7-12 years old 10-11
12-18 years old 8-9
2. Set a firm, consistent sleep schedule. After determining how much sleep your child needs, figure out a bedtime and wake-up time that allows enough time for after-school activities, homework, dinner and free time at night, as well as enough time to get ready for school in the morning. If you can’t do this easily, you might want to consider whether your child is trying to do too much or is over-scheduled.
Once you have a sleep schedule, stick to it. Make sure your child goes to bed and wakes up at the same time every day — even on the weekends. A consistent sleep schedule makes falling asleep and waking up easier.
3. Establish a bedtime routine. Playing a game, reading a book, taking a bath, brushing teeth — helps to prepare your child for bed, signaling that it’s time for sleep.
If a late night or early wake-up is unavoidable, try to make up for it by letting your child sleep in or go to bed a little early. Then return to your regular sleep schedule. Generally, say experts, bedtime should not change by more than one hour from day to day.
4. Put your screens to sleep, too. Studies have shown that using a screen, whether TV, computer or phone, can suppress the release of melatonin, a natural hormone released to help you feel tired and ready for sleep.
It may be hard, especially with teenagers, but try to limit screen time in the evenings, turning off TVs, computers and phones one to two hours before bedtime. Don’t let children take phones, tablets or other devices to bed with them (a good idea for parents, too).
5. Make sure your child gets lots of exercise during the day. Not only is it good for overall health, but regular exercise also will burn some built-up energy and help your child fall asleep more easily. However, your child should avoid exercise or active play before bed.
It may take time for you and your child to adjust to a new sleep schedule or routine. In fact, it typically takes kids 3-6 weeks to fully adjust to a sleep schedule — so try to plan ahead. For example, move wake times no more than 1-2 hours earlier every 3-7 days until you hit your goal wake time, and move bedtimes 15 minutes earlier every 3-5 days until you hit the goal bedtime. But, if you can’t get into a new routine until school begins, give yourself grace if the first few weeks of school are rough.
If your child consistently has trouble falling and staying asleep, however, consult your pediatrician. Often, sleep problems in children have their roots in other illnesses or conditions. Sometimes sleep issues can be more behavioral than physical. Your pediatrician may refer you to a pediatric sleep center, like the one at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
For more information about the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Sleep Center and for more tips on helping your child sleep well, go to https://www.stlouischildrens.org/conditions-treatments/sleep-center.
Late summer is a great time to supercharge your diet with the nutrients found in the season’s many fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers markets, roadside stands and even supermarkets are loaded with a wide variety of just-picked produce.
To help you make the most of this end-of-summer bounty, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital registered dietitians Jessica Stafford, Brittany Metzger and Elizabeth Plummer shared tips on how to find out what produce is in season and the best ways to store it.
Plus — up to your ears in zucchinis or green tomatoes? They’ve included recipes that don’t involve deep frying.
Find out what fruits and vegetables are at their peak now
From the end of July to the first day of fall, Sept. 22, a wide, delicious variety of fruit and vegetables are ready to harvest in the Midwest. Seasonal Food Guide (https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/ ) is a great site for finding produce in season near you. The site lets you choose the month, specify either early or late in each month, and enter your location to see what fruits and vegetables are reaching their peak. Some examples of what is available now include peaches, blueberries, plums, watermelon, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini.
“Plate” a variety of produce daily
Adding a variety of produce to your day-to-day meals is especially nutritious. The dietitians suggest using the “plate” method to help you incorporate fruits and vegetables into your meals. More information about the plate method can be found at https://www.myplate.gov/. The site offers a quiz to see if you are making every bite count and personalized plans with simple ways to get more healthy foods on your plate.
Eat the rainbow
Dark greens. Vibrant reds. Shiny purples. The produce section is a kaleidoscope of color in late summer. Color signals nutrients when it comes to fruits and vegetables. When choosing your fruits and vegetables, try to eat the “rainbow” every day. The more colors of produce you eat, the more nutrients you are feeding your body.
For instance, red — like in watermelon and tomatoes — means produce is full of nutrients like lycopene, which fights cancer. The orange in carrots and sweet potatoes comes from vitamin C and beta-carotene, which support healthy vision and cell growth. Green foods, like cabbage, enhance your immune system.
Don’t sweat the freshness
If you have a backyard veggie garden, you’re in luck. From a nutrition standpoint, choosing fresh produce is best.
Don’t have a green thumb? One way to make fresh fruits and vegetables “fun” is to take the family to one of the many local farmers markets in the area and see the variety of products offered.
If you don’t have the time, land or money to grow your own produce or shop at a farmers market, don’t worry. Adding any kind of produce to your diet, whether frozen, canned, pickled or fermented, is good for you.
Research indicates that as long as fresh products undergo minimal storage and are handled at proper temperatures, they are superior to processed products, especially in terms of vitamin C content. Canning, for instance, exposes fruits and vegetables to high temperatures, which degrade vitamin C.
Even though processed fruits and vegetables will lose some nutritional value, they are still an affordable way to incorporate produce into your diet, especially in the winter months when fresh produce is not as readily available.
The “zucchini problem” and how to solve it
Ah, zucchinis! They’re inexpensive and easy to grow. As a result, local gardeners, their friends and family are often faced with a glut of zucchinis at the end of the summer season.
Let’s face it, there’s only so much zucchini bread a person can eat. Besides, most zucchini bread recipes call for lots of sugar and oil — not the healthiest way to get your vegetables.
But there are other things you can do. For instance, shred zucchini and add it to dishes such as soup, stews and casseroles. Shredded zucchini can also be added to a pound of lean ground beef or turkey. This adds nutrients and moisture to dry foods, like turkey burgers.
For those buying groceries on a budget, adding shredded zucchini can also help stretch a pound of ground meat. Zucchini freezes well. Shred and portion your zucchini in small freezer bags and enjoy it all year.
Here are two sites that offer mostly healthy zucchini recipes the dietitians like:
Have extra tomatoes to use up? Check out these recipes:
If you’re looking to wring the last drops of fun out of summer and ease into fall, September in St. Louis is packed with things to see, places to go and events to attend. The typically great weather means September has lots of concerts, fairs and festivals to choose from — many of them free.
Here are a few of our “don’t-miss” end-of-the-season picks:
Get active outdoors
Bike Through Time — Bike a 7-mile route through Jefferson Barracks County Park in south St. Louis County, led by a historian who will discuss the history of this pre-Civil War military base. For age 12 through adult. For more information, call 314-615-8800 or email [email protected].
Bike MS: Gateway Getaway 2022 — Staying active and healthy this summer by biking? What better way to culminate a summer of healthy activity than by showcasing your skills and joining BJC HealthCare at Bike MS: Gateway Getaway 2022. This year’s Race Weekend features courses from 25 to 100 miles.
Pedal The Cause — You’ll be supporting cancer research in St. Louis as you ride your bike. (You can spin or participate virtually, too.) The courses leave from Chesterfield Mall and range from 10 to 100 miles. More information »
Every Saturday in September
Yoga under the Arch — Just Breathe Yoga is a series of free yoga classes held under the north leg of the Arch every Saturday morning in September. More information »
Art and music
St. Louis Art Fair — Stroll the streets of downtown Clayton to view (and buy) art from more than 130 artists. With food, music and hands-on art experiences, this event is fun for the whole family.
Music at the Intersection — This musical festival in the Grand Center Arts District celebrates St. Louis’ musical, cultural and artistic heritage, with headliners Erykah Badu and Gary Clark Jr. It also features national and local jazz, blues, funk and hip-hop artists. More information »
Daily in September
Laumeier Sculpture Park — Can’t decide between a hike and a museum visit? You don’t have to at Laumeier Sculpture Park in Sunset Hills. More than 70 large-scale artworks sit on 150 acres criss-crossed with paved walkways and wooded hiking trails. More information »
Festivals and special events
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race — This family-favorite event is just around the corner. Join BJC HealthCare and St. Louis Children’s Hospital as they sponsor the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the race. The free event includes the balloon glow and fireworks Friday evening and balloon race day Saturday! More information »
St. Charles Oktoberfest — No, it’s not early (Oktoberfest starts even earlier in Munich). With a 5K race for humans and a shorter race for wiener dogs, this festival celebrates the area’s German heritage with fun for the whole family. More information »
Greater St. Louis Hispanic Festival — Celebrate the area’s vibrant Hispanic culture with traditional folk dancers, Latino music, folk arts and crafts and, of course, plenty of food. Held in Soulard Market Park. More information »
Tower Grove Pride — It’s another chance to show your pride, support members of the LGBTQ+ community and have a great time. There are drag performances, music, food and vendors. More information »