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A Checkup Checklist

Add these appointments to your back-to-school planner.

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School supplies; check. First day outfit; check. Visit to the dentist…check? At back-to-school time, you’ve got a lot on your to-do list. But here’s one more important thing: Scheduling the wellness checkups kids need that can help set them up for academic success. This checkup checklist can help everyone stay on track.

See the Eye Doctor

The American Optometric Association recommends that kids get a comprehensive eye exam before the first grade and every two years after that, or every year, if they wear glasses. Even without vision problems that are detectable by you, the school, or your child, it’s important to have a comprehensive eye exam because one in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem. And get this: 80 percent of learning comes from vision, according to a landmark UCLA study.

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While the visual screening test your child takes at his well-child check-up at the pediatrician’s office can be helpful, it can often create a false sense of security by missing significant eye problems, such as farsightedness (not being able to see up close). Farsightedness is the easiest thing to miss in the pediatrician’s office because kids can hide it by focusing extra hard.

Farsightedness can lead to concentration problems when kids are doing homework, taking tests or just trying to read in general. Not being able to see well in general can also lead to behavioral problems. Moreover, with all the screens kids are on these days, studies show that nearsightedness (not being able to see far away) is on the rise. You don’t have to be genetically programmed to be nearsighted. You can make yourself become that way. Too much screen time can also make your child’s eyes dry, tired and lead to headaches. To help preserve your child’s vision, the optometrist can talk to your child about visual hygiene, such as taking frequent screen breaks.

To counteract close computer work, remind your child or teen to follow the American Optometric Association’s 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20 second break to view something 20 feet way every 20 minutes. To reduce the glare from overhead fluorescent lights and computer screens, which can lead to headaches and eye strain, ask the eye doctor about applying a no-glare coating to your child’s glasses. And, keep in mind that preteens and teens can wear contacts, too. Daily disposables make it easy. Just throw them away at the end of the day.

Give Your Child a Shot Against Illness

Vaccinations are important for kids of all ages, including adolescents. Immunizations can help kids stay healthy by preventing many serious diseases. Here’s a rundown of some of the immunizations your school-age child might need.

COVID-19: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone six months and older and boosters for everyone five years and older, if eligible.
The Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children ages six months to 17 years. The Moderna vaccine is approved for children six months to five years of age.

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Flu shot: Everyone six months and older should get a yearly flu shot unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise.

Meningitis: Kids ages 11 or 12 should get one shot of meningococcal conjugate, which protects against potentially life-threatening meningitis. A booster shot is recommended at age 16.

HPV: Kids 11 or 12 should get a two-shot series of the HPV vaccine, which helps protects against cervical and other types of cancer.

Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP): Kids ages four to six years need a fifth dose of this vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, which can cause swelling of the heart and be fatal.

Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap): Kids 11 or 12 years old need one dose of Tdap, which protects against tetanus, a potentially-life threatening illness. Check with your pediatrician about your child’s immunization schedule and what to do if you need to catch up on any missed doses.

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Book a Dentist Appointment

Children should start seeing a dentist regularly by their first birthday. If your child hasn’t started seeing a dentist regularly, now’s a great time to start. Regular dental checkups help prevent tooth decay, which can lead to pain, trouble concentrating, and other medical issues.

The American Association of Orthodontists also recommends children visit the orthodontist for the first time no later than age seven. An early orthodontist visit probably won’t lead to braces. It’s unusual to put braces on children that young. But seeing the orthodontist early can help head off problems before they get worse. An orthodontist can check to see if your child’s jaws are growing properly and if there’s enough room for your child’s permanent teeth to grow in. If it looks like your child will need orthodontic treatment at some point, an orthodontist can advise you on when and how to begin.

Put Your Medicine Cabinet To the Test

When you’re young, especially, life is filled with ups and downs—on the jungle gym, the flag football field, and the basketball court. Besides bumps, cuts, and bruises, children have been known to get about eight colds per year too.

As “Dr.” Mom/Dad, you’re often your child’s first responder. While you’re stocking up on school supplies, stock up your medicine cabinet with triple antibiotic ointment, anti-itch creams or ointments, strong strip bandages, and pain relievers to be ready for whatever comes your way. Read labels carefully and use as directed. Kids will be kids and when yours gets a scrape or a virus, it pays to be prepared.

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