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Health Pros: Add Check-ups to Back-to-School Checklist


Monday, August 29, 2022   

Kids are heading back to school and health professionals say this is a good time for them to get a full health check-up.

Before families' schedules get too busy, they should consider wellness checks, as well as eye exams, hearing tests and dental cleanings.

Beth Tinker is a clinical nurse consultant with the Washington State Health Care Authority, the state's Medicaid agency. She said along with addressing issues early, it's important that kids see doctors outside of emergency situations.

"Having a consistent, ongoing relationship with a health-care provider of your choice," said Tinker, "is really the way to set your kids on a really healthy path."

Tinker noted that many families have been skipping wellness checks because of the pandemic and now is a good time to get back on track with an annual check up.

Dr. Donna O'Shea - national chief medical officer for population health with UnitedHealthcare - said kids should get comprehensive eye exams before age one and an additional one before kindergarten, according to American Optometric Association recommendations.

If there are no vision issues, children should get exams at least once every two years.

O'Shea said parents also can help with eye strain from digital screens, which is on the rise.

"Make sure the computer screens are at least 30 inches away," said O'Shea, "or to make sure that you or your child are taking breaks every 20 minutes from the screens. And consider investing in screen protectors or computer monitors that help limit that exposure to blue light."

O'Shea said dental cleanings are important because tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases among children. She also said schools provide hearing tests but will refer families out for a full evaluation if hearing loss is detected.

"Like vision and dental, early detection of hearing issues is crucial for getting treatment as soon as possible," said O'Shea. "And that's really important because hearing loss can affect a child's ability to develop speech, language and social skills."

O'Shea also noted that the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for everyone six months and older.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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