As the new school year begins, experts are reminding Pennsylvania parents not to overlook some important health examinations for children.
Physical examinations and vaccinations are required all about prevention for more than 1.7 million Pennsylvania students in grades K-12.
Wendy Robison, certified school nurse for the Western Beaver County School District, said regular checkups are the best way to control illnesses and other health concerns.
“We require a physical after entering school, which could be kindergarten or pre-K, and again in sixth grade and again in 11th grade,” Robison described. “This is a physical examination. What we hope to capture with the physical exam are those developmental issues that occur during those time periods.”
She noted that vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings are routinely done by school nurses in Pennsylvania each year for all students. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month.
Robison explained that parents should pay attention to oral hygiene and schedule dental appointments for their children. She emphasized that dental care is a major issue for children now.
“Dental exams are required upon entering school, in third grade and again in seventh grade,” Robison noted. “And again, they’re in time for the development of, you know, with the development of teeth and things like that. It’s a good time to talk about orthodontics.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, children with poor dental health are more likely to experience a toothache, perform poorly in class or miss school altogether.
And digital eye strain is also a concern for today’s kids, who often use computers and smartphones for hours on end.
Dr. Donna O’Shea, national chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare, said exposure to blue light from screens can affect eye health and contribute to headaches, dry eyes, and neck or shoulder pain.
“Make sure computer screens are at least 30 inches away, or make sure you or your child take breaks every 20 minutes from the screens,” O’Shea advised. “Consider investing in screen protectors or computer monitors that help limit that blue light exposure.”
of American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam at age one and before they start kindergarten. If no vision problems are detected, then eye examinations are recommended at least every two years.
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