3 checkups to help set your child up for school success

Does back to school mean “back to busy” for you and your family?

Before schedules become packed with homework, sports and other extracurricular activities, consider scheduling your child’s recommended health exams. Doing so may help them succeed inside and outside the classroom.

“Setting a few wellness-related appointments this fall could help contribute to making this a successful school year for your child, including by flagging health issues that can make learning more difficult,” said Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health at UnitedHealthcare.

Here are three exams to consider:

1. Eye exam

While pediatrician and school-based vision screenings are valuable, they can miss certain conditions, such as poor eye alignment, focus issues and farsightedness. That’s why it’s recommended children get a comprehensive eye exam before starting kindergarten and, if no vision issues are detected, at least once every two years after that.

Even after an exam, it is important to watch for digital eye strain, which can be caused by the overuse of blue-light-emitting digital devices, such as smartphones or laptops. Digital eye strain can contribute to headaches, dry eyes, and neck or shoulder pain. To help reduce the risk of it, UnitedHealthcare vision members may have discounts on screen protectors and computers with blue-light filtering properties.

Also, be aware of nearsightedness, which is the inability to see far-away objects clearly and is linked to a greater risk of developing serious eye diseases later in life. This condition, also known as myopia, may affect up to half of the global population by 2050. To help address, UnitedHealthcare vision members in selects cities have access to a complimentary comprehensive assessment and a discount off the first year of treatment for new pediatric patients ($450 total value).These appointments are offered in collaboration with Treehouse Eyes, a leader in childhood myopia management treatment.

2. Dental cleaning

Tooth decay is largely preventable, but it still ranks among the most common chronic conditions in children. By school age, about half of all kids have at least one cavity, which may cause pain and even affect concentration in class or while doing school work. To make sure your child’s teeth are as healthy as possible, consider scheduling a dental exam at the start of the school year and every six months after that.

Besides routine cleanings, proper at-home oral care is important year-round. Tips include brushing your teeth and tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush for two minutes twice a day, flossing daily, avoiding sugary snacks/drinks and opting for a fluoride varnish from your dentist. 

3. Hearing test

Hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop speech, language and social skills. While most schools offer annual or bi-annual screenings, it’s important to get a comprehensive hearing evaluation if you think your child may have a problem.

Today, nearly half of 12- to 35-year-olds are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music cranked through earbuds and headphones. To help lower the risks, consider the 60–60 rule, which means limiting the use of earbuds or headphones to no more than 60 minutes and at no more than 60% of the player’s maximum volume.

“Make this back-to-school season a time to get your family on schedule with these health exams and appointments,” Dr. O’Shea said. “Besides being good for their health in the near term, the checkups are a valuable lesson for children about the importance of preventive care, helping develop an important habit that can benefit them once they reach adulthood.”

One more thing: If you're heading to a checkup with your child’s primary care doctor for the first time in a while, it might be helpful to bring along a preventive care checklist to make sure you’re remembering all the recommendations for vaccines, screenings and more.

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom