August marks back-to-school season. This means it’s time to get your kids’ notebooks, pencils and folders ready for the new year — but don’t forget, it’s also time to schedule your child’s annual health exams. Use this “health checklist” to get appointments on the calendar before schedules become packed with classes, homework and extracurricular activities.
Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam
A child’s first comprehensive eye exam should occur before age 1, again at age 3 and before entering school. If no vision issues are detected, school-aged children should have an exam at least once every two years.
“Remember, a school’s vision screening is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam,” said Dr. Scott Edmonds, vice president, UnitedHealthcare Vision. “These screenings can miss conditions such as poor eye alignment, focusing issues and farsightedness.”
The inability to see clearly can affect a child’s physical, emotional and social development, which in turn may affect academic and athletic performance. Children often don’t complain if their vision isn’t normal, so it’s important to look for possible signs such as squinting while reading or watching television, difficulty hitting or catching a ball or headaches.
It’s also good to be aware of digital eye strain caused by prolonged use of computers or smartphones. Help your child practice healthy vision habits by keeping computer screens at least 30 inches from their eyes, resting their eyes every 20 minutes and blinking frequently to avoid dry eyes. It’s recommended that screen time should end at least 2 hour before bedtime to help promote better sleep.
Get a Dental Cleaning
Maintaining proper oral health matters more than just keeping a sparkling smile – it also impacts your overall health. This is especially true for children because untreated dental problems may lead to poor social relationships, decreased self-esteem and a limited ability to learn at school.
Cavities and tooth decay are common among children, so it’s important to schedule dental exams every six months.
Get an Annual Wellness Exam
Back-to-school checkups may be the only time children see their doctor, and it’s an opportunity to address emotional, developmental or social concerns. During an annual exam, your doctor may check your child’s heart and blood pressure and test for diabetes, cholesterol and anemia. It also can be a time for a guided discussion about diet and exercise, as well as a conversation about drinking, smoking, sexual activity and depression.
Many schools require that children are properly immunized before they enter the classroom to help avoid serious diseases and to reduce the risk for other students of contracting them. You should check with their doctor to determine what immunizations are appropriate, based on your child’s age.
Most shots are given by the time children are 2 years old, but some are administered into the teen years. These vaccines are 90 to 99 percent effective and may help protect kids from diseases such as mumps, tetanus and chicken pox. A regular flu vaccine may also be helpful in preventing children from unnecessary school absences.
Back-to-school season is an exciting time for you and your children. Consider following these guidelines, to help encourage your child’s health and success throughout the year.