A Back to School Health Checklist for Parents From Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia
Up-to-date vaccinations are important for children and teens
ATLANTA – August 3, 2011 – In Atlanta, children start heading back to school as early as next week. Fortunately, it’s not too late for parents to prepare their children for the start of the school year by scheduling some very important medical exams. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) recommends that children receive annual physicals, dental and eye exams to ensure students are ready for the rigors of the classroom and can get the most out of their education.
“As parents prepare their children for the transition back to school, they need to make sure each child gets their recommended immunizations, along with an eye exam and dental check and cleaning,” said Dr. Barry Nedoba, medical director, BCBSGa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends age-appropriate vaccinations for all children, including an annual influenza shot when those become available this fall. The CDC’s specific immunization recommendations include:
• The meningococcal vaccine for ages 11-18 if not previously vaccinated.The combination tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (so-called Tdap) vaccine for all adolescents age 11-12 who have not received a tetanus and diphtheria vaccine (Td) booster dose. Adolescents between 13-18 years old who missed the 11-12 Tdap dose or received Td only are encouraged to receive one dose of Tdap five years after the last Tdap dose.
• All children should receive two doses of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine at 12-15 months and 4-6 years old. Since the risk for transmission can be high among school-aged children and teens, those without evidence of immunity should receive two doses of chickenpox vaccine and those who have received one dose previously should receive a second dose.
• In addition, all children should receive two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A first dose is recommended at ages 12-15 months and a second dose at ages 4-6 years old. If not previously vaccinated, children and teens age 7-18 years old should be vaccinated.
• The human papillomarvirus (HPV) is recommended for girls beginning at ages 11-12 years old. The HPV vaccine is a three dose series administered over a six-month period.
“Your child’s doctor will have a record of previous vaccinations and can recommend what is needed,” said Dr. Nedoba, “but the important thing is to schedule that annual check-up now to ensure your child is ready for school.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), school age children should be evaluated for visual difficulties at their annual visit and formally screened according to the AAP's recommended schedule.
In addition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) recently reported that one-in-four children in kindergarten through sixth grade has a vision problem. Some studies indicate that 80 percent of learning in children occurs visually; therefore, getting regular routine eye exams should be a major part of the back to school preparation. Undiagnosed vision problems can lead to difficulty with schoolwork, resulting in poor performance.
According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2009 American Eye-Q® survey, 60 percent of children identified as "problem learners" actually suffer from undetected vision problems and in some cases have been inaccurately diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
"Having healthy eyes and clear vision can make all the difference in how a child learns and/or performs in class," Dr. Nedoba added. "Poor vision can result in lower grades and ultimately lower self esteem."
While many parents do make sure their child is current on their immunizations and vision exams; a visit to the dentist is often not considered part of the school preparedness routine. However, when children and teens get regular dental exams, many problems or issues can be discovered early and possibly corrected.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggest parents take their child to a pediatric dentist as soon as the first tooth appears, or at least by his or her first birthday. After this initial visit, a regular routine of visiting the dentist every six months for a dental exam and cleaning should be established for excellent oral health.
According to the CDC, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year nationwide because of dental-related illness, and more than half of children aged five to nine have had at least one cavity or filling, with 78 percent of 17-year-olds having experienced tooth decay.
BCBSGa provides coverage for most vaccines and exams. However, policyholders should confirm their specific benefits by calling the toll-free number listed on their insurance card.
"We encourage our members to make sure their children start the school year off on the right foot health-wise by getting the recommended immunizations, and having their eyes and teeth examined," said Dr. Nedoba. "These simple exams are essential for keeping children and teens healthy and helping them achieve the most in the classroom.”
Preventive health guidelines, vision and dental care tips, and a complete recommended immunization schedule, are available for both members and non-members at http://www.bcbsga.com/health-insurance/health-and-wellness/preventive-care#tab3.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthcare Plan of Georgia, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association®. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is available at www.bcbsga.com. Also, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/healthjoinin, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthJoinInBCBSGa, visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/healthjoinin or check out the Our Health Connects Us campaign site at http://connects.bcbsga.com/.
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