Health and Wellness from Humana - School Health Check for Children

July 21, 2011

A child getting an annual check up

Already?! It's Back to School Time Again

The calendar is telling you that summer is winding down and it's time to get the children ready for school again. Summer seemed too short, especially for the kids. Now is the time to think about the books, supplies, clothes….and, oh yes, the school health list. So what is it that needs to be done?

Immunizations

Childhood vaccines are important. They help prevent serious infections and the spread of disease. Chicken pox, for example, is typically a minor illness in most children. But that same virus can cause a serious form of pneumonia in people with weak immune systems, especially the elderly. So these childhood shots not only protect children, they can lower the spread of disease to the elderly or others with a weaker immune system. By the time a child is ready for first grade he or she should have had:

  • Five Diphtheria, Pertussis (Whooping Cough) and Tetanus (DTaP)
  • Four inactivated polio injections (IPV)
  • Two Measles-Mumps-Rubella ("German Measles/3-Day Measles) (MMR)
  • Three Hemophilus Influenza Type B (Hib)
  • Two Hepatitis A (Hep A)
  • Three Hepatitis B (Hep B)
  • Two Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Two or three Rotavirus (a cause of childhood diarrhea with dehydration)
  • Four pneumococcal vaccines
  • Annual flu shots

All but four of these should be given by the age of two. Fortunately, many of these are given at the same time so that children don't have to have as many shots. These vaccines lower the amount of ear infections, meningitis and other serious illnesses. These vaccines are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most are required before a child starts school.

Middle school students will need boosters of the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis vaccines. This is the so-called Tdap vaccine. Middle schoolers should also receive three doses of the Meningococcal vaccine to prevent certain strains of deadly bacterial meningitis. And for girls, the Humana Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent cancer of the cervix as an adult.

Weight Assessment

The risk of childhood obesity is great. Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers later in life. It is better to prevent your child from becoming overweight in the first place than to have your child battle obesity later in life. Unfortunately nearly 1/3 of children between six and eighteen years are overweight or obese according to Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Parents should schedule regular checkups with their child's health provider. These checkups should include an assessment of weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a great time to have a health professional give good advice on proper eating and good nutrition.

Screening Lab Tests

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends some screening tests for children. They suggest that every child should have a cholesterol test and also check their blood count or lead levels. However, parents should talk with their child's health professional about any risk factors that would make screening more important.

When Your Child Has a Minor Illness

Pediatricians notice more office visits a few weeks after school begins. It seems that children "trade viruses" in the early days of school just as much as they trade summer vacation stories. Many parents may want their child with a sore throat to get an antibiotic, hoping that will get the child well sooner. The fact is that most late summer and early fall sore throats and colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics will not help a virus. A throat culture or rapid strep test should be given before any child gets an antibiotic for a sore throat.

Planning for your child's preventive health check is an important part of planning for the new school year.

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