July 21, 2024 7:17 am
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Health Professionals Urge Back-to-School Checkups for PA Kids

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Danielle Smith

As a new school year starts, experts are reminding Pennsylvania parents not to overlook some important health screenings for kids.

The required physical examinations and vaccinations are all about prevention for the 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 screen for illnesses and other health concerns.

“We require a physical exam upon entry into school, which could be kindergarten or pre-K, and again in sixth grade, and again in 11th grade,” Robison outlined. “That is a physical exam. What we hope to capture with the physical exam are those developmental issues that occur during those time periods.”

She noted vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings are done routinely by school nurses in Pennsylvania every year for all students. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

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

“The dental exams are required upon entry into school, in third grade, and again in seventh grade,” Robison noted. “And again, those 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 to experience tooth pain, perform poorly in class or miss school altogether.

And digital eyestrain is also a concern with today’s kids, who often use computers and smartphones for hours.

Dr. Donna O’Shea, national chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare, said the blue-light exposure from screens can affect eye health, and contribute to headaches, dry eyes and neck or shoulder pain. 

“Make sure the computer screens are at least 30 inches away, or to make sure that you or your child are taking breaks every 20 minutes from the screens,” O’Shea advised. “Consider investing in screen protectors or computer monitors that help limit that exposure to blue light.”

The American Optometric Association recommends children get their first comprehensive eye exam by age one and another prior to starting kindergarten. If no vision issues are detected, eye exams are then recommended at least every two years.

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.

This story first appeared on Public News Service.