August marks back-to-school season, an ideal time for parents to help improve their children’s health.
Before schedules become packed with classes, homework and extracurricular activities, here’s a back-to-school ‘health checklist’ to help give children a better chance to succeed inside and outside the classroom:
Get a comprehensive eye exam
About 80% of what children learn is through their eyes. With that in mind, a child’s first comprehensive eye exam should occur before age 1, again at age 3, and before entering school. If no vision issues are detected, school-age children should have an exam at least once every two years.
A school’s vision screening is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam, as screenings can miss conditions such as poor eye alignment, focusing issues and farsightedness.
The inability to see clearly can affect a child’s physical, emotional and social development, which in turn can affect academic and athletic performance. Children often don’t complain if their vision isn’t normal, so it’s important to look for possible signs, such as squinting while reading or watching television, difficulty hitting or catching a ball or headaches when watching 3D movies.
Also, be aware of digital eye strain, which is caused by prolonged use of computers or smartphones. Help your child practice healthy vision habits by keeping computer screens at least 30 inches from their eyes, resting their eyes every 20 minutes and blinking frequently to avoid dry eyes.
Get a dental cleaning
Maintaining proper oral health matters more than just keeping a sparkling smile – it’s also important for good overall health. This is especially true for children, as untreated dental problems may diminish attention, decrease self-esteem and limit a child’s ability to learn at school.
Tooth decay is largely preventable, yet it ranks as the most common chronic disease among children. About 33 percent of young kids (ages 2 to 8) have cavities in their baby teeth, and 20% of kids in the same age group have cavities in their adult teeth.
With that in mind, parents should schedule regular dental exams every six months, especially at schools that require a back-to-school dental checkup.