Friday, August 2, 2019

Add wellness exams to your back-to-school list

By DR. DAWN MARCELLE | LDH Region 2 Medical Director

The dawn of a new school year sees parents loading up on pencils, paper and all the trappings needed for their children’s academic success. But does that checklist make room for health? Along with up-to-date immunizations, the beginning of the school year is the perfect time for a variety of checkups.

Physical exams

Schedule an appointment with your family’s pediatrician for a wellness checkup. Your pediatrician will give your child a physical examination including height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes, scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) and a check of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin for abnormalities.

This exam is also a great time to talk about any concerns you may have about your child’s health, including diet/nutrition, sleep and behavior.

If your child participates in sports, your pediatrician will perform a sports physical. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association, or LHSAA, mandates all student athletes to pass a sports physical as part of its participation requirements. Sports physical forms can be downloaded here.


During the wellness checkup, your pediatrician will make sure your child is up to date on immunizations. Common immunizations among school-age children include TdaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), varicella (chickenpox), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), hepatitis B, polio and meningococcal.

Children who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured or of American Indian or Alaskan Native descent may be eligible to receive vaccines at no charge through the Vaccines for Children Program, a service offered through the Immunization Program within the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health.

Beginning this school year, LDH is making it easier for parents to review and print their children’s vaccination records with LA MyIR. This website lets you access your family’s official immunization records at any time, from any device and at no cost.

Vision testing

A child who can’t see well is going to have problems in the classroom. Some schools conduct vision screenings, but that may not be enough to spot problems. You may be surprised to learn that the American Optometric Association says these screenings miss up to 75% of children with vision problems.

Signs that a child may be having problems with their sight include covering one eye, holding reading materials close to the face, squinting, a short attention span and complaints about headaches or other discomfort.

Schedule a comprehensive eye and vision examination with a doctor of optometry. The optometrist has access to specialized equipment and procedures to fully assess your child’s vision. Click here to find an optometrist near you.

Hearing tests

Babies have their hearing tested a few weeks after birth, but that doesn’t mean it should be the last time hearing is checked. Hearing loss is usually a gradual process, happening over time. If your child isn’t responding to a teacher’s instructions, it may be because their hearing is suffering. Poor hearing can affect speech development and even social development, since a child who can’t hear well may have problems interacting with other people.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends hearing screenings at school entry for all children; at least once during ages 6, 8 and 10; at least once during middle school; at least once during high school; and for any student entering a new school system without evidence of a previous hearing screening. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation if your child needs a screening.

Dental exams

Many children drop their usual dental habits during the carefree days of summer. Get them back on track with a dental exam and cleaning. Your dentist will make sure your child’s teeth are strong and straight, their bite is in good shape and check for any problems such as cavities or gum disease.

Children who play year-round sports should bring their mouth guards along to the exam. Dental staff will check the guard for wear, tear and fit. Growing children may be fitted for a new guard if they are outgrowing the old one.

You can learn more about LDH’s efforts to provide healthy smiles here, and the American Dental Association offers an online Find-a-Dentist tool here.

Healthy eating

Of course, you can’t send the kids back to school without a nutritious lunch. Check the LDH Blog next week for tips on healthy eating in the school cafeteria.

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