Every year on the first Monday of October, we celebrate Child Health Day. This year, Child Health Day fell on October 1st which sets the tone for the whole month.
Child Health Day is an opportunity to learn more and to review guidelines and procedures that are crucial to monitoring and encouraging healthy living in your children. Even if you missed the awareness day, it is still a good reminder to put time aside to focus on your children’s health. Make an effort today to take 20 minutes to check your child’s medical records and make any necessary appointments. Some things to review:
✓ Are your child’s immunizations up-to-date?
✓ Are there required immunizations for the school year?
✓ When was the last time your child had a check-up with their pediatrician?
✓ When is the last time your child had a vision screening? They should start screenings as early as three-years old.
Doctors visits are important but as a parent or guardian you are the first line of defense! You will see any changes in behavior or developmental lags much more easily, and sooner, than a doctor will.
The American Academy of Pediatricians published helpful guides that track development and set benchmarks for parents to watch as their children grow. These materials are under the “Bright Futures” campaign. You can read through the expected developmental goals and behavior, as well as suggested immunizations and medical check-ups on the campaign website “Bright Futures”.
One of the things to pay close attention to is the development of your children’s eyesight. This can be overlooked by pediatricians, especially in young children. Pay attention to these points:
✓ Do your child’s eyes track together?
✓ Does your child turn his or her head entirely to look at objects in their peripheral vision?
✓ Are your child’s eyes cloudy?
✓ When you take flash photography of your children, is there a white, opaque or yellow reflection in one or both of their eyes?
If your child has any of these, make an appointment with your pediatrician immediately and ask them to perform a red reflex eye test. These can all be signs of vision difficulty or even more serious conditions like retinoblastoma or Coats’ Disease.
While warning signs of sight-impairment are more apparent in older toddlers and young school-aged children, you can still check your baby’s eyes by covering one eye at a time. If babies are suffering vision loss, they will become agitated if you cover their “good” eye, leaving them unable to see through their “bad” eye.
And finally, it is important to prepare your children for their visits to the pediatrician or optometrist.
Kids may have negative perceptions of doctors and nurses or associate the doctor’s office with shots and therefore pain. Talk with your children about the role of healthcare professionals in healing us when we’re ill. Walk them through what the visit will look like so they can be prepared. And finally, it may be helpful to play with them: pretend to be the patient and they can be in the doctor’s or nurse’s role and “examine” you. This can make seeing the doctor less alien and scary and more familiar.