• March

    March Healthy Hints from the Nurse

    This month, Brooksiders are celebrating Dr. Suess, Saint Patrick and good nutrition!  National Nutrition Month is an annual March event created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help families develop healthy eating and physical activity habits.

    Brookside’s theme “Eat to Excel” highlights the importance of making wise food and activity choices. Powering up their plates will ensure that students (and their families) get the nutrients they need to be physically strong and mentally prepared to succeed in school. Consider the food groups: Protein gives the body energy to build and repair tissues. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals to fight illness and cancers. Dairy strengthens bones and teeth.  Grains provide energy. All these basic food groups work together to build a healthy body. 

    The best way to teach lifelong healthy habits is to start early and make it part of each day.  Here are a few tips to help your children “eat to excel”. 

    • A good breakfast is an important part of the day. While scientists have debated this topic for years, there is evidence that the body and brain are not dormant overnight; they expend energy. Without food for 8 to 10 hours, they need fuel. Carbohydrate paired with a protein is a perfect meal to start the day. Carbohydrates provide the energy to focus while protein keeps them satiated until snack time.  Are mornings crazy at your house? Keep grab-and-go choices on hand: a banana and nuts, cheese and crackers or trail mix that includes a protein source in it. 
    • Pack in the produce and strive for five fruits and vegetables. This colorful food group provides vitamins and minerals to fight illness. The various colors afford various benefits, so give your kids a rainbow each day! 
    • Sugar highs lead to sugar lows. The high energy resulting from a sweet treat is only temporary; in a couple of hours, the blood sugar level drops below baseline, often leaving you feeling hungry and lethargic. Having a treat? Serve it with a protein to slow the absorption of the sugar and reduce the drop in blood sugar and energy. 
    • Snacks are a great way to squeeze in extra nutrition. It is recommended that children have 0.4 gm of protein per pound each day. Consider including protein in each snack. 
    • Balancing nutrition with activity is part of overall health. It is recommended that children achieve 15,000 steps and 60 minutes of activity a day.  So let your kids run circles around you! 
    • Family meal time is a great way to nourish…and to connect. 

    To support your efforts, there will be weekly themes at Brookside during March.  Encourage your kids to participate in any activities offered and have a healthy, nutritious month!

    And finally, please:

    • Dress your kids appropriately for outdoor recess
    • Empty your voicemail box regularly so messages may be left if necessary
    • Include the nurse in any communication about absences - illness or planned vacations


    • Provide doctor’s orders and your permission for all medication, even over the counter pain relievers, eye drops, or medicated lotions.

     Thank you and have a great month!

    ~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse


    February with Hearts

    February Healthy Hints from the School Nurse

    While February is traditionally the time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Brookside Place is featuring heart and dental health this month.  Along with guest speakers on the topics, there will be various activities and displays to highlight healthy lifestyles.       

    Did you know that the average heart beats 100,000 times each day?  When you consider that it pumps 24/7, it is an organ that is worth time and attention. Start your kids now with heart healthy habits:

    • Encourage your kids to turn off their gadgets and be more active; it is estimated that 8 -18 year olds spend four hours watching TV and two hours at a computer each day.
    • Remind your kids that being active doesn’t have to mean panting and sweating. They just  need to move: walk to school, take the stairs, park at the far reaches of a parking lot, help with yard work (my personal favorite!), or just play outside.  Remember Cranford has the best treadmill in the area - Nomahegan Park trail!
    • Introduce a variety of fruits and vegetables. The nutrients in the plants help fight cardiovascular disease. Leave them on the counter in plain sight or cut them up and leave in the refrigerator so they are ready to eat.
    • Teach them about heart healthy fats. “Bad fats” are solid at room temperature (butter, lard, fats from meat, creams); heart healthy oils include walnuts, almonds, olive oil and olives.
    • Serve low fat proteins such as low fat milk, chicken, lean beef and fish. You can introduce skim or low fat milk gradually by mixing it with whole milk.
    • Help them manage stress. Stomach aches, headaches, extreme emotions, trouble sleeping or eating could be signs of stress. Planned down time, like yoga and exercise, are great stress reducers.                                                                                        

    Did you know that tooth enamel is the hardest part of your body?  Fact is, if you don’t floss you miss cleaning 40 percent of your teeth!  Help your kids get on track to a lifelong healthy smile by starting good habits early. Dental care should begin as soon as teeth appear, but it is never too late to start.

    • Help your kids brush twice a day until you are certain that they have mastered the coordination to do a thorough job on their own.
    • Flossing is especially challenging, so helping them with this task will ensure it is done correctly.
    • After the age of six years, fluoride toothpaste is encouraged.
    • Offer water and naturally sweet snacks like fruit or nuts and cheese instead of sugary drinks and sweet, sticky snacks.
    • If there is a lot of snacking, kids should brush in between meals as well since snacks can lead to tooth decay.
    • See a dentist regularly as soon as the first teeth have erupted.

    This month Brooksiders are encouraged to think about heart and dental health.  Attached are forms they can complete and return to me for a chance to win this month’s raffle.  I will also post them in the halls.

    A Healthy Heart Means  and A Healthy Smile Means

    Extra reminders:

    • Please call the absence line if your child will be absent and give a reason for absence - 908-709-6246.
    • If your child has a fever or is vomiting, please keep him or her home for 24 hours, fever or symptom free without the use of fever reducing medication.
    • Please clear your voicemail and update contact information as needed.
    • Please be sure you child is dressed appropriately as time outdoors is the preferred option for recess.


    Have a great month of celebrations!

    ~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse


     January with Snow

    January Healthy Hints from the School Nurse

    Welcome 2019!  I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful winter break.

    As we start a new year, I would like to focus on increasing awareness of food allergies.  Seven percent of our BPS students live with severe allergies, making it an important health topic for all staff, students and their families.

    According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), 15 million Americans live with food allergies; 5.9 million of them are children. That means about 1 in 13 children live with severe allergies. The CDC reports that the prevalence of food allergies has risen by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 and the number of people with tree nut and peanut allergies has tripled in that time. In 1999, my first year as school nurse at Brookside, there was one student with severe food allergies. Today, I have Epipen orders for 24 students. The most common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and latex. Sesame is quickly becoming a common allergen as well.

    Allergies are caused by a body’s over reactive immune response. A person has contact with many foods or substances that are harmless.  However, in a person with severe allergies, their body mistakenly recognizes these as dangerous and mounts an attack. A mild allergic reaction causes a release of histamine which leads to the itchiness, runny nose, red eyes and rashes.  However, in a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, chemicals are released that lead to a cascade of serious effects on every body system. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction which can have a sudden onset appearing immediately or two hours later after contact with the offending food or substance. Anaphylaxis can lead to widespread hives, swelling of the lips, mouth and throat, blocked airways, difficulty breathing and swallowing, vomiting, a severe drop in blood pressure and even death. This reaction can be caused by ingesting and, sometimes, touching, so it needs to be taken seriously.

    At Brookside Place School, we work to give all students a safe learning environment. Since even touching an area where there have been nuts can cause a reaction in affected students, classes that include these students are asked to avoid sending in food that contain or may contain nuts or peanuts for snack or for any of the four designated classroom celebrations. We offer a peanut/tree nut free table in the lunchroom so students may bring whatever they enjoy for lunch time.

    This month at Brookside, we will increase awareness of food allergies and what it is like to live with the possibility of a severe allergic reaction. There will be various posters and presentations by students with allergies displayed around the school.

    Here are a few thoughts from Brooksiders about what it is like to live with severe allergies. Consider it “food” for thought:


    “It’s hard to eat in restaurants. Even at Dunkin Donuts, you are always taking a risk.”


    “It’s really hard because you see people eating things you want, but you have to say no when it is offered to you.”


    “Having allergies doesn’t feel different except you are restricted and always have to be on alert when you eat out of your house.”


    Extra reminders:

    • Please call the absence line if your child will be absent and give a reason for absence - 908-709-6246.
    • If your child has a fever or is vomiting, please keep him or her home for 24 hours, fever or symptom free without the use of fever reducing medication.
    • Please clear your voicemail and update contact information as needed.
    • Please be sure you child is dressed appropriately as time outdoors is the preferred option for recess.


    Here’s to a happy, healthy 2019!

    ~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse


    December with Trees

    December Healthy Hints from the School Nurse

    December is filled with special events, get-togethers and celebrations with family and friends.  All the fun can make getting a good night’s sleep very difficult.  This month at Brookside, we are highlighting the need for sleep and how to make it easier to get those “40 winks.”

    According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 6 - 13 years should have 9 - 11 hours of sleep each night. Adults need 7 - 9 hours. So what is “sleep”? How important is it? And how can we get the right amount?

    Although our bodies seem still during the night, sleep is a dynamic activity; our brains are active as we pass through different cycles of sleep and our body is recharging itself.  The various sleep cycles help restore our bodies and minds to improve our performance for the next day. The first three cycles are NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep.  The first 10 minutes are the light sleep when we can be easily awakened.  During the next two cycles, we go into a progressively deeper sleep.  Brain waves become longer, our eyes stop moving, our muscles relax and the blood supply to those muscles increase, energy is restored, tissue is repaired and growth occurs. Hormones are released that help growth and development. REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep is the final cycle when our eyes flicker, brain waves quicken, and dreaming occurs.  Interestingly, our muscles are temporarily paralyzed during this phase to prevent our bodies from physically reacting to our dreams.  The entire process takes about two hours and the cycles are repeated throughout the night. 

    Sleep is restorative to our brains and our bodies.  Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and can affect behavior, concentration, school performance and mood.  It can also negatively affect weight, heart health and blood pressure. 

    Establishing a bedtime routine with your children will help make it easier for them to get a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips:

    • Use a “brush, book, bed” routine
    • Allow time to unwind before falling asleep
    • Avoid exercise and screen time (television, tablets, video games) for 60 minutes before bedtime. Online games, TV and exercise may stimulate them and the light from TV and tablets interferes with the body’s natural cues for sleepiness. 
    • Make the room sleep friendly. Keep distractions like toys and games out of their beds, dim lights, reduce noise, and cool the room temperature.

    For more hints on healthy sleeping habits, refer to the list from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

    Clickh here: Tips for Healthy Sleep

    This month at Broookside:

    To promote healthy sleep habits, I encourage your children to bring me a short description of their bedtime routine.  It may be well established or it may be a new routine that helps them fall asleep.  If they share their routine with me, their name will be included in a raffle drawing at the end of the month.  Sweet Dreams!

    Extra reminders:

    • Please call the absence line if your child will be absent and give a reason for absence - 908-709-6246.
    • If your child has a fever or is vomiting, please keep him or her home for 24 hours, fever or symptom free without the use of fever reducing medication.
    • Please clear your voicemail and update contact information as needed.
    • Please be sure you child is dressed appropriately as time outdoors is the preferred option for recess.


    ~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse


    November Healthy Hints from the School Nurse

    November! It’s a time to begin preparing for the upcoming holiday season and, unfortunately, the upcoming flu season. For the 2018 - 2019 school year we are celebrating the “Year of Healthy Brooksiders,” and this month we are highlighting the importance of hand washing and the prevention of illness. 

    The single most effective way to prevent the spread of any illness is hand washing. November is  a good time to review hand washing with your children.  It is a simple recipe: take lots of water (it doesn’t have to be warm) and add soap. Lather and scrub from wrists to fingertips for 20 seconds. Dry thoroughly and you have clean hands!  Since soap and water are the best cleaners, the CDC recommends the use of hand sanitizers as a second line of cleaning if soap and water are not available.  If using sanitizers, chose one with at least 60% alcohol. Apply generously and do not wipe off the excess.  Rub your entire hands until dry.  Additionally, remind your family to avoid touching their “T Zone” (eyes, nose and mouth) and to discard used tissues. Germs can spray up to six feet, so remind family members to cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow.  

    The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months receive the flu vaccine before the end of October. There are different vaccines for various populations: the young, the elderly and pregnant women, but speak with your doctor if you have an egg allergy before getting the vaccine. The vaccine takes two weeks to provide full immunity, so having it early gives you a better chance of protection. Flu season is from October until March, but if you haven’t gotten it yet, it’s not too late. The vaccine can be given anytime during the flu season. Flu is spread by droplets (coughing or sneezing) or from direct contact with infected items. Symptoms appear one to four days after exposure. A person is contagious one day prior until seven days after symptoms appear. Children may be contagious even longer. It is also important to stay home until you are symptom and fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever reducing medication. This will help prevent the spread of illness and protect you from contracting other germs while you are still recovering.

    For more detailed information, visit the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/vaccinations.htm


    Other Notes:

    • The flu vaccine is recommended, but it is not required for admission in New Jersey elementary schools. Therefore, you do not need to send a doctor’s note about receiving the flu vaccine.
    • Be sure to empty your voice mailbox so, if necessary, I may leave a message on your cell phone.                               
    • Please dress your children appropriately for outdoor recess each day.


    ~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse


    October Healthy Hints from the School Nurse

    Autumn is here ~ apple picking, Fall Fest and Walk Your Child to School Day!  At Brookside Place School, we will be celebrating National Walk Your Child to School Day on October 10th.  Since we, as a school, have embarked on “The Year of Healthy Brooksiders”, we will encourage walking (and biking) all month long. 

    It is well known that the magic number of daily steps is 10,000 for adults. Studies conducted by the NIH found that the number of daily steps for children is between 11,000-12,000 for girls and between 13,000 and 15,000 for boys.  Those steps equal approximately 60 minutes of play. Walking to school is a great way to get a jump start on those healthy steps and there are so many benefits to walking to school:


    1. It’s good for the environment. Reducing the exhaust from cars helps keep the neighborhood cleaner.  There is an anti idling law in New Jersey to minimize our children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.  Less cars around school means less exhaust for children to breathe!
    2. It saves money on gas. It may not seem like much but with the price of gas, every little bit helps.
    3. It gives you an opportunity to talk with your child. Away from TV and computers, you can find out about their friends and their class.  Walking home, you can get a recap of their day. It is amazing how a walk around the park can help them express thoughts and emotions.
    4. It is a teachable moment. Talk to them about pedestrian safety and the rules for walking to school. You can plan out their route to school - which side of the street has sidewalks, where are the crosswalks?  What is the crossing guard’s name?
    5. And last, but not least- it’s healthy! Studies have shown that along with helping with weight control, walking lowers blood pressure, strengthens muscle, increases bone density, maintains flexible joints, improves concentration, memory and test scores, and improves mood!  We all know that happy kids make happy parents/guardians (and teachers too)!

    To encourage students and their families to walk to school, I will be conducting two voluntary programs this month.


    • If a student chooses to participate, I will ask them to track the steps they take to school each day and submit them to me at the end of the week. They can use a parent/ guardian or friend’s tracking device to keep track.  Parents/guardians can print out the form in these Healthy Hints to submit the total steps each week.  Please review and sign the form before returning it. I will post the total number of steps that Brooksiders take during the month of October. Let’s watch that number rise!


    • Students can submit a short explanation (3-4 sentences) of what they like about walking to school. It may be the health benefits, time spent with friends or parents/guardians, enjoying the fall weather, or whatever it is they like. They could send in a drawing of what they like as well. I will post them in the hallway so that everyone can see why walking or biking to school is fun.  I have also attached that form.

    Any student who participates in either program will have their name entered for a prize drawing at the end of the month.  I am looking forward to seeing lots of students on my walks to school!

    Click here for: Walking Forms

    Additional informational notes:

    Voicemail - Please check your voicemail box on cell phones.  It is important that I can leave a message in the event I need to reach you during the school day.

    Emergency Contacts – Please review your emergency contacts.  If you have friends or relatives that work or live far away, it is difficult to rely on them in an emergency.  Please consider a neighbor or family member who is available during school hours.

    Earrings - A reminder about earrings and gym class.  Earrings are not allowed during gym so please remind your child they need to remove and replace the earrings, bring bandaids to cover them or leave them at home on gym days. 


    ~ Paula O’Hara, Brookside Place School Nurse