A healthy start: Tips from local health experts on preparing your child for school

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Hearing and vision screenings. Immunizations. Physicals.

A big part of preparing your child for school revolves around health care, especially for kindergarteners.

Missouri requires that children entering public school have nine immunizations, according to Cape Girardeau County Health Department assistant director and nurse Jane Wernsman.

Wernsman and her staff are spending time at schools this week and next offering immunizations to students enrolling in classes.

Other local health departments --like the one in Scott County -- have extended office hours to accommodate the back-to-school demand.

Outside of immunizations, local health officials also suggest children receive physicals with vision and hearing screens and dental checkups before returning to school. The physicals allow doctors to assess a child growth rate and make certain everything is on track, said Dr. Heather Dodson, a Cape Girardeau pediatrician.

"Every child needs to be seen at least once a year and back to school is an easier time to do that because kids are off during the day," Dodson said. "We can talk about problems from the last year and any concerns that need to be discussed before the start of a new year."

According to the Delta Dental Plans Association, more than 50 million school hours are lost by students each year whose dental-related illnesses cause them to stay home or seek professional care. Even if the pain is not intense enough to keep a child out of school, it might distract them in class.

Because of that, Wernsman suggests a dental exam prior to the start of school.

She also reminds parents that tetanus shots should be given once every 10 years. Most students receive them before entering kindergarten, so by age 15 the shot is needed again.

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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