As summer comes to a close, it’s time to focus on our children’s transition back to school. We spoke with pediatrician Dr. Annamarie Wilde about some common questions she receives from parents during kids’ annual health examinations and “back to school” checkups.
I sometimes wonder if my child might have hearing or vision problems. Are there any common warning signs?
If a child doesn’t seem to be hearing well, check to see how they respond when speaking to them. A good indication of a problem is if they aren’t actively turning their face in the direction of the sound. They may also have difficulties hearing whispering. They will need to see a specialist. An audiometry is an examination with an ear, nose and throat doctor that may uncover problems which may be the symptoms of tonsillitis, an ear infection or excessive liquid in the ear. While children often rub their eyes when they’re tired or upset, this is nothing to be concerned about. But if they rub their eyes or blink excessively while trying to concentrate, like reading or watching TV, this may point to a vision problem. Light sensitivity or frequent headaches are also symptoms of potential eye problems. Digital eye strain is becoming more common among children who are frequent users of computers or other digital devices in this age of iPads and laptops. By the age of one, an ophthalmology exam can be done for the first time, and by the time children reach 3.5 years old they are recommended to have an annual eye checkup.
My child seems to get allergies every fall. Is there anything I can do to help?
When we see the common allergy symptoms, it is common that a pediatrician send them to an allergologist to discover the specific allergy. If we know the allergen exactly, we can prepare for future allergy seasons and see what can be done to avoid the problem.
My child is 15 and still hasn’t had an HPV (Human papilloma virus) vaccination. Is it too late?
Absolutely not, it is available for children over the age of 14 as well. There are three kinds of HPV vaccination which can be administered, each covering a wider range of the HPV spectrum. It is important for girls to get an HPV vaccine before their first sexual contact, since before that point they will not have been exposed to human papillomavirus.
HPV vaccine is given as a three-dose series over the course of eight or nine months.
• 1st dose
• 2nd dose – 1 to 2 months after dose 1
• 3rd dose – 6 months after dose 1
Does my child need a “back to school” or sports physical?
While it may not seem as urgent, a yearly physical exam by your pediatrician is an important part of your child’s health care. The back-to-school season is a convenient time for putting the exam on your family’s schedule. Regular physicals give healthcare providers time to discuss important health issues with parents. Examinations can ensure a child is healthy and physically prepared to participate in activities. The continuity of regular physical exams is invaluable. Having a long-term history with a child or adolescent gives your doctor awareness of the child’s progress and development over time. The doctor may be able to detect emerging issues, taking details from the patient’s history, such as important past illnesses or injuries not mentioned on the sports physical questionnaire.
Is it important to stay up to date with my child’s vaccinations?
Vaccinations may help your child avoid many illnesses, such as chickenpox, or at least the symptoms will not be as severe. It is very important to complete multi-shot vaccinations once started. If you stop before the full dose is complete, full protection cannot be achieved and the whole course may need to be restarted.
Is my child getting enough sleep? How much is enough?
Sleep is essential to your child’s health and growth. Sleep promotes alertness, memory and performance. Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness. Anyone who has spent an afternoon with a tired child knows that the most pleasant child, or adult for that matter, can turn as prickly as a cactus if they don’t get enough sleep. Being overtired can make it difficult to manage our emotions and everyday things can make us too irritable to be around company.
My child is always getting sick during the school year. Is there anything I can do about this?
Proper eating habits are really important to ensure children are getting enough minerals, iron, vitamins and fibre. During darker months (October to June) it is recommended to get 1000 NE (niacin equivalents) vitamin D, and for bigger children 2000 NE a day. Vitamin D helps ensure the body absorbs and retains calcium and phosphorus, both critical for building bone. There is epidemiologic evidence that Vitamin D not only makes for strong bones but may play a role in preventing some chronic diseases later in life, including those involving the immune and cardiovascular systems.
FirstMed welcomes everyone back from their summer holidays. Now is a great time to schedule your child’s school physical exam or well-child check.
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