Back to school check-ups: Physicals, dental, eyes ? Oh My!

August 3, 2010 4:56:22 AM PDT
Many kids are getting ready to go back to school. And many parents have a long to-do list to get them ready. But it's not just about pencils and notebooks. It's also about health. Kids heading to school for the first time as well as kids heading back to school should visit their doctor for their yearly physical.

Many kids will have to get up to date on vaccinations. All kids will need to show proof of immunity to the chicken pox. 11 to 13-year-olds should get a booster shot for pertussis, or whooping cough, that's required in New Jersey along with a meningitis vaccination for 6th graders there.

Some school districts in Pennsylvania also require a meningitis vaccination for 7th graders.

Also on the list should be a comprehensive eye exam.

"70-percent of your learning is visual so if you have a vision problem, you're missing out on 70-percent of what you're supposed to be picking up."

Optometrist Dr. Jim Hall, of Ardmore Eye Care, says school vision screenings are good but sometimes miss things. A full exam will show if the eyes are working well together and will spot other problems.

Kids should have an eye exam at 6 to 12 months, then at age 5 and every other year after as long as there are no problems.

If there are problems they're easier to fix when caught early.

Lastly, is a trip to the dentist. Pediatric dentist Dr. John Del Gaiso says cavities can turn into major problems and missed school if they're not filled.

Plus he says it's best to set up a healthy routine for kids as they head back to school. Try to get them in the habit of brushing at least after breakfast and after dinner.

And if you don't have a dental or medical plan, call your local health department. They have programs to help kids get care.

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