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NewYork-Presbyterian's Back-To-School Health Checklist

NEW YORK (Aug 7, 2006)

The first day of school always requires preparations: notebooks, pens, a new set of clothes, etc. Don't forget to prepare for your child's health, says Dr. Pamela F. Gallin – a pediatrician at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, a mother of four, and the author of The Savvy Mom's Guide to Medical Care and How to Survive Your Doctor's Care. Dr. Gallin provides parents and caregivers with tips to help their kids get a smart start to the academic year.

  • Have your child's vision screened. It is important for children to have an annual vision screening because young children often don't know if they can't see adequately. If your child wears glasses, be sure that the prescription is current.
  • Have your child's hearing tested. Most states now mandate hearing tests for babies. But many school-age children have not been tested. If your child is listening to the television or music at a very loud volume, or tends to favor one ear over the other when listening to you speak, it may be a sign of hearing loss.
  • Be equipped for sports. For children who wear glasses, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends one-piece wraparound polycarbonate sports frames for all contact sports, including soccer, field hockey and basketball. All children wearing spectacles need sports frames for gym. Lenses should be made of polycarbonate.
  • Are your child's immunizations up-to-date? The last thing you want is for your child to be turned away from school on the first day because he or she was not properly immunized. If you have recently moved from one state to another, check to see if your child meets the new state's regulations. In addition, new immunizations, such as hepatitis B, are now required. Check with your child's pediatrician.
  • Have you noticed your child scratching his or her scalp since camp ended? It may be a sign that a case of lice was contracted during the summer. It is important that you check your child's head yourself, and, if you are unsure, contact the school nurse or your child's pediatrician. Head lice will not go away by itself but can be treated with over-the-counter remedies.
  • Does your child receive medication on a regular basis for diabetes, asthma or another chronic problem? School nurses and teachers must be made aware of your child's needs, especially if they are the ones who administer the medicine. Be sure to speak with them about these procedures before school begins, and work out an emergency course of action in case of a problem.
  • Is your child anxious and apprehensive? Most children are naturally anxious about the new school year. It normally takes about a month for children to adjust to new situations. A new school, fear of a class bully, or taking a school bus for the first time may cause anxieties. If after a few weeks your child continues to be anxious and apprehensive, bring this to the attention of his or her teacher so that you can identify the source of the anxiety and work out a solution.
  • Do you suspect a learning disability or dyslexia? If you suspect that your child is not processing information as he or she should, speak to the teacher or learning center in your child's school. Your suspicious should be noted to the teacher as soon as possible. A professional diagnosis usually requires two days' worth of testing.
  • Does your child eat breakfast? Studies show that children who eat breakfast are more alert in class. Also, be sure that your child is having a balanced, nutritious lunch, whether it is one you send or one provided by the school cafeteria. If your child is allowed to bring a snack, try to avoid junk food and focus more on fruits and other healthful food.
  • Are your up-to-date emergency phone numbers on file? Make sure that the school and your child know how to reach you or another caregiver at all times. The school administration and teachers should always know how to reach you if there is an issue that needs to be discussed.

"Your child will have a great year in school if you make sure that the teacher understands all of your child's special needs," says Dr. Gallin. "But remember, just as a child may be overwhelmed by school the first day, often so are the teachers."

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