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Living Well

Real Money: Back to school with a student athlete

While it might seem a little soon to discuss back-to-school planning in mid-summer, across the country, schools are already prepping for the start of the academic year -- in as little as a few weeks in some areas. Plus, if your kids are athletes, you know that early-season practices will be here before you know it.

As the parent of a student athlete, you experience the highs and lows of team sports alongside your son or daughter. You're there for it all—the exhilaration of scoring a goal, the heartbreak of being benched, and the pain of unexpected injuries.

Nothing is more exciting than these moments, but there's a lot more to sports than just game day. Whether your child is out for the season due to an injury or you're simply trying to prepare for upcoming games, it's important to understand how your FSA might be able to help you prepare for sports-related injuries.

Here's some things you need to know about your FSA and back-to-school prep for a student athlete.

Avoid injuries with day camps

Did you know that you can use your dependent care FSA (DCFSA) to pay for day camps and after school programs? As long as your child is under age 13 (and you and your spouse are either gainfully employed or seeking gainful employment), you're able to contribute the maximum per year towards your DCFSA—$5,000 per household, or $2,500 if married and filing separately.

As long as the primary reason for the camp is to provide care and supervision while you work, your child might be able to get some additional sports and fitness along the way.

One of the most effective ways to prevent sports injuries is to encourage cross-training in a variety of sports. So if your son normally plays soccer, it might be a good idea to enroll him an after-school program that exposes him to a wider range of activities. He'll be able to work out different muscles and become stronger overall while also preparing for the upcoming soccer season.

Get reimbursed for doctor's visits

Here's the truth—if your student athlete experiences a sports-related injury, then bills from the doctor's office might add up fast. Because of that, it's important to utilize your FSA to get reimbursed for doctor's visits.

According to a recent study, knee injuries are the most common sports-related injury for teens and they also happen to be one of the most expensive. Depending on the severity of the injury, your child may need to visit a variety of specialists that could range from physical therapists to orthopedic surgeons, and if the injury occurs during a game or practice, then you might even need to go to urgent care or the emergency room.

The most cost-effective way to handle doctor's visits is to keep track of your visits, save the bills and file for FSA reimbursement with your employer or use your card to pay for them directly if you have one. It might not seem like much in the moment, but being able to use a tax-advantaged account to pay for your doctor bills could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars throughout the year.

Make sure you have the necessary supplies

Whether your child has a sprained ankle or a torn ACL, there's a good chance he or she will need some medical supplies to recover from the injury. Some of the most common items for sports-related injuries include knee braces, back braces and rib belts. But regardless of what you need, it's always a good idea to check if necessary supplies are FSA-eligible.

The first step is to check with your doctor or sports trainer about which products will best serve your student athlete. The good news is that most products for sports-related injuries don't require a letter of medical necessity (LMN). But if there's something your child needs, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about it.

As always, be sure to use your FSA debit card when you checkout. If you can't use your card, be sure to save your receipts so you can file for reimbursement at a later date.

Enjoy the sports season

You'll always worry about your child, but that's just part of being parent. Don't let your fear of injuries stop you from enjoying the sports season. Cheer with the crowd, attend the banquets and celebrate the team's victories. Throughout it all, you can rest easy knowing that you're prepared for whatever may happen.

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Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Eligibility

5 must-have FSA-eligible products for back-to-school season

Depending on who you ask, summer vacation may feel like it has just started (your kids) or thankfully coming to an end (parents)! The month of August is a busy one for parents as they jump into back-to-school shopping. But as important as school supplies and new clothes are, planning ahead for your child's wellness is just as important!

Your flexible spending account (FSA) can provide a source of financial relief for the must-have items your kids need to stay healthy as they head back into the classroom. Don't know where to start? Here are a few FSA-eligible items to keep in mind.

Bandages

Bumps, scratches and scrapes are par for the course if you have a child in elementary school. Time spent in gym class, in the art room or on the playground can result in little mishaps, so keep some bandages handy to quickly take care of minor injuries. Bandages are eligible, over-the-counter products that do not require a prescription for FSA reimbursement.

Cover up those cuts and scrapes with all different types of FSA-eligible bandages for the entire family.

Allergy Relief

While most people associate allergy season with the early spring, the fall can present its own unique challenges if your child has a ragweed allergy. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, ragweed season begins in August and will hit its peak in September when your child is in the thick of the new school year. Prepare beforehand with FSA-eligible cold & allergy products to keep your son or daughter's symptoms at bay.

Back-to-school can mean back-to-allergies. From allergy tablets to nasal spray to throat lozenges, your FSA keeps you covered.

Wax for Braces

If your child will be getting braces put on in the next several months, getting adjusted to these orthodontic devices can be a struggle. Wax is used in the months after braces are installed to prevent the brackets from causing abrasions on the inside of the mouth. Make sure your child has enough to hit the ground running during the school year with your FSA!

Braces can be uncomfortable, but braces wax is here to help. Relieve irritation caused by braces with braces wax.

Thermometers

Sick days will happen, and one of the best ways to monitor your child's physical health during an illness is with a thermometer. These devices are available in a variety of styles to suit your child's age, such as those that read temperature through the ear, forehead or mouth. Best of all, using your FSA funds will help you save on the cost of this must-have item for parents.

Get easy, quick temperature readings with professional accuracy with a wide variety of thermometers.

Light Therapy Acne System

If you have kids who are making the transition from elementary school to high school, acne is a major issue in their teen years. Instead of harsh astringents and topical treatments, light therapy may be a great alternative! A light therapy system utilizes blue light treatments to destroy bacteria on the skin that can contribute to acne to freshen and clean skin. It can even treat multiple areas of the body in under 10 minutes!

Use the power of light therapy to fight pesky breakouts by killing bacteria with light therapy acne masks.

Eligibility

7 athletic treatments for fall sports season

Back to school time is here. Learn about a few athletic treatments and therapeutic products to keep in mind as the school year gets underway.

It's hard to believe, but back-to-school season is in full swing, and if you're the parent of a student athlete, there's a good chance your son or daughter is participating in late summer practices to ready up for the coming fall sports season. Soreness, muscle strains and injuries can happen at any time. But there are a variety of athletic treatments that can help ease any soreness and provide additional drug-free pain relief. If you are enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA), you can help keep your kids off the sidelines and in the action all season long.

Here are a few athletic treatments and therapeutic products to keep in mind as the school year gets underway!

Cold Packs

Cold therapy is the most common treatment for acute sports injuries, as a standard cold pack can dramatically reduce pain, swelling and inflammation in injured muscles and joints. Use it for bruises, sprains and muscle pulls before and after physical activity to speed recovery times from injuries.

Check Out: Battle Creek

Hot Packs

Heat therapy is especially helpful when treating sore muscles and joints and a great drug-free athletic treatment. Localized heat can open blood vessels and deliver oxygenated blood and nutrients to the affected area to reduce recovery times. Combining both cold and hot packs during rehabilitation may also be effective for some injuries.

Check Out: Cara Moist/Dry Heating Pad with Select Heat

Hot/Cold Sectionals

If you're looking for a therapeutic product that can do double duty, sectionals that can be cooled in the fridge or heated in the microwave for larger areas like the lower back are a great option for student athletes looking to recover quickly from heavy activity.

Check Out: Thermal-Aid Small Sectional

Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology Tape, also commonly referred to as K-Tape, is used to provide additional support to sore muscles and joints through strengthening taping methods. This synthetic tape can stand up to sweat, moisture and extreme temperatures to provide another layer of protection during heavy physical activity.

Check Out: KT TAPE PRO, Pre-Cut, 20 Strip, Synthetic, Laser Blue

Knee Supports

If your son or daughter has continual issues with knee sprains and associated injuries, he/she may benefit from the use of knee supports during physical activity. These sleeves are worn over the joint and provide additional support for the knee, but still providing a full range of movement. Wrist, elbow and other joint supports are also FSA eligible!

Check Out: TheraPearl Knee Wrap

Back Supports

Sports like football or wrestling typically have a weightlifting regimen that goes along with the conditioning process before the season begins. Lifters should aim to give their lower backs additional support when lifting to provide additional support and protection against injuries.

Check Out: Back-A-Line Back Support with Lumbar Pad

Plantar Fasciitis Support

Individuals with flat feet or wearing shoes with poor support are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, the most common form of heel pain that can be extremely painful. Sleep supports are worn during the night to keep the foot and heel in the proper therapeutic position all night long to speed recovery times.

Check Out: FUTURO Night Plantar Fasciitis Sleep Support, 1 ea

For everything you need to keep you and your loved ones healthy, visit FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible items to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!