Back-to-School Planning: Make Sure Your Child’s Health Visits Top the List

Back-to-School Planning: Make Sure Your Child’s Health Visits Top the List

Lee esto en EspañolWhen it comes to a smooth back-to-school experience, preparation is key. Gathering school supplies before the school bell rings is good. So is making sure the kids haven’t outgrown their school clothes and shoes. And catching up on doctor visits and other health basics can help children stay healthy and succeed in school.

Before kids go back to school, it’s a good plan to think “back to the doctor,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics.   Your child may need a yearly exam, which helps track progress and growth over time to spot emerging problems. That visit is also a way to stay up to date with immunizations.

“Getting your children and teens ready to go back to school is the perfect time to make sure they are up-to-date with their immunizations. Vaccination protects students from diseases and keeps them healthy,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

And don’t forget other routine health appointments. Eye exams and dental visits also help keep kids healthy.

Protect Their Eyes

Eye Exams
How long has it been since your child had a vision screening? Vision problems often have no obvious early signs. The American Optometric Association suggests that children without eye issues have a basic vision screening before first grade and then each year after that. 

Children at high risk may need and more comprehensive eye exam. And they may need earlier and more frequent screening. The American Academy of Ophthalmology   says children should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam if they:

  • Fail a vision screening
  • Have a vision complaint
  • Are referred by a pediatrician or school nurse
  • Have a family history of eye problems
  • Have certain health conditions, such as Down syndrome
  • Have a learning disability
  • Have a developmental delay
  • Have a behavioral issue

Keep Eyes Safe
If children wear glasses, make sure they have eyewear made with shatterproof plastic. Stay on the lookout for any hazards where they play. And insist on proper protective gear during sports activities. 

Computers, tablets and mobile phones are used by children starting at young ages. That can cause eye problems. Limit use of digital screens. Make sure kids keep screens at least 18 to 24 inches from their eyes. Don’t let them use the devices for long periods of time. And have your child follow the 20-20-20 rule. That means look up from the screen every 20 minutes. Then look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Don’t Forget Healthy Teeth

It’s always a good time to build healthy habits to keep children’s teeth strong. Try these tips to keep teeth cavity free:

  • Limit sugary foods and drinks. And when kids do have them, remember that they’re easier on the teeth when they’re part of a meal.
  • Limit between-meal snacks.
  • Chewing sugarless gum after a snack helps wash out food and acid that causes tooth decay.
  • Drink fluoridated water to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Make sure kids brush their teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss every day.
  • Encourage your children to eat more fruits and vegetables and less sweets.
Other Safety concerns

This is also a good time to talk to your kids about how they should handle safety related situations. Talk about getting to school safely Ask them how they might feel or react if they were the target of bullying.   Make sure they know how to identify the basic signs of a concussion Discuss these and other safety situations before kids go back to school so they can be prepared.

back to school checklist
Source: CDC 2019
Sources: Back to School, Back to the Doctor,   American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019; Head Back to School Safer and Healthier this Year!,   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019; Comprehensive eye exams,   American Optometric Association; Eye Screening for Children,   American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2021; 6 Ways to Be Proactive About Your Child's Eye Health,   Johns Hopkins Medicine; Children’s Oral Health,   CDC, 2021

Originally published 6/28/2021; Reviewed 2022

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