Health professionals urge back-to-school checkups for PA kids

As a new school year begins, experts remind parents in Pennsylvania not to overlook some important aspects health examinations for kids.

Required physical exams and vaccinations are all about prevention for Pennsylvania’s more than 1.7 million K-12 students.

Wendy Robison, a certified school nurse for the Western Beaver County School District, said regular checkups are the best way to screen for illnesses and other health issues.

“We need a physical exam at school entry, which could be kindergarten or pre-kindergarten, and again in sixth, and again in 11th,” Robison pointed out. “It’s a physical exam. What we hope to capture with the physical exam is the developmental issues that arise during these times.

She noted that vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings are done annually by Pennsylvania school nurses for all students. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes the month of August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

Robison explained that parents should pay close attention to oral hygiene and schedule dental appointments for their children. She pointed out that dental care is a major issue for children right now.

“Dental exams are mandatory upon entry to school, in third grade, and again in seventh grade,” Robison noted. “And again, these are timed for the development of, you know, as the teeth develop 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 have a toothache, do poorly in class, or miss school altogether.

And digital eye strain is also a concern for today’s children, who often use computers and smartphones for hours on end.

Dr. Donna O’Shea, national chief medical officer for 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 screens,” O’Shea advised. “Consider investing in screen protectors or computer monitors that help limit this blue light exposure.”

The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam at any age before starting kindergarten. If no vision problems are detected, then eye exams are recommended at least every two years.

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