UnitedHealthcare of California has authored a back to school health checklist to help give children a better chance to succeed inside and outside the classroom
Get a comprehensive eye exam
About 80 percent of what children learn is by sight. With that in mind, 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, children should have an exam at least once every two years. Also, a school’s vision screening is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam, as 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 can 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 when watching 3D movies.
Also, be aware of digital eye strain, which is caused by prolonged use of computers or smartphones. Help children 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.
Get a dental cleaning
Maintaining proper oral health matters more than just keeping a sparkling smile, it’s also important for good overall health. This is especially true for children, as untreated dental problems may diminish attention, decrease self-esteem and limit a child’s ability to learn at school.
Tooth decay is largely preventable, yet it ranks as the most common chronic disease among children. Approximately 33 percent of young children ages 2 to 8 have cavities in baby teeth, and 20 percent of children in the same age group have cavities in their adult teeth. With that in mind, parents should schedule regular dental exams every six months, especially at schools that require a back-to-school dental checkup.
For parents with teenagers, it is important to recognize the risks of opioid addiction, especially after wisdom teeth removal. If a child is prescribed an opioid following a dental or other medical procedure, ask a health care professional if there are alternatives, including over-the-counter pain relievers such as a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Get recommended immunizations
Many schools, including those in the Los Angeles Unified School District, require that children are properly immunized before they enter the classroom to help to avoid the spread of diseases. Children’s vaccines are 90% to 99% effective and may help protect kids from diseases such as mumps, tetanus and chicken pox. By helping reduce the risk of contracting potentially preventable diseases such as the flu, children may have fewer school absences.
Parents should check with their doctors to determine what immunizations are appropriate based on age. Most shots are given by the time children are 2 years old, but some are administered into the teen years. If a child runs a low-grade fever or has swelling in the shot location after the immunization, the minor side effects typically last a couple days. Apply a cool, wet washcloth on the sore area to help ease discomfort, and check with a doctor about the appropriateness of over-the-counter pain medications. For information, visit uhc.com/health-and-wellness/preventive-care.
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