little boyIt’s time to get the kids ready to head back to school. Are your child’s immunizations up to date? Does he need new glasses? What time should she go to bed? We’ve rounded up expert advice on all this and more so your kids will be ready for the big day.

Schedule a well-child checkup.

The New Jersey Department of Education requires a well-child exam when a child enrolls in school; an annual exam is also required for participation in a school sport. Check with your child’s doctor regarding how often to schedule additional well-child check-ups.

Make sure your child is up-to-date on all immunizations, including seasonal flu/H1N1.

Ask your doctor for a copy of your child’s immunization record. You will need it to prove her immunization status for school. Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Childhood Immunization Support Program website for lots of helpful information, including: 

  • The AAP’s 2012 Childhood Immunization Schedule (for infants through teens) and a catch-up schedule for children who may have missed a scheduled vaccination. 
  • Updates on vaccine safety and vaccines that are temporarily in short supply.
  • Frequently asked questions about childhood immunizations.
  • The AAP’s Immunization Newsletter

The 2011-12 seasonal flu vaccine includes protection against the H1N1 virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means that, barring some unforeseen circumstance, most Americans will be able to get one flu shot to protect against the major flu viruses. (Younger children who have never had a seasonal flu vaccine before will need two doses, says the CDC.) Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu, says the CDC. Getting your child vaccinated is the best method for protecting him from the flu. 

See more of our back-to-school health checklist—>


Have your child’s vision checked.

Basic vision screening should be performed by your child’s doctor at each well-child examination. If a child fails a vision screening, or if there is any concern about a vision problem, she should be referred for a comprehensive professional eye exam, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). For children who wear glasses, the AAO recommends one-piece wrap-around polycarbonate sports frames for contact sports. 

Schedule a dental check-up.

Students in the U.S. miss more than 51 million school hours per year because of dental problems, says the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Teach your child to floss daily and brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. And visit your child’s dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and check-up.

Have your child’s hearing tested.

Newborn hearing screening is now mandated by law in New Jersey (unless it is against the family’s religious beliefs), but many school-age children weren’t tested as babies. Talk with your doctor about testing if your child is listening to the television or music at a very loud volume, or tends to favor one ear over the other when listening to you speak. 

Communicate about medications.

Does your child receive medication on a regular basis for asthma or another chronic health problem? School nurses and teachers must be made aware of your child’s needs, especially if they are the ones who will administer the medicine. Speak with them about the prescribed medication, and work out an emergency plan in case of a problem.


Schedule testing if you suspect a learning disability or dyslexia.

If you feel your child may not be processing information as she should, speak with her teacher and doctor as soon as possible. They  can provide referrals for testing.  

Update emergency phone numbers.

Are your current emergency phone numbers on file at school? Make sure the school and your child know how to reach you or another caregiver at all times. 

Choose the right backpack. 

Look for wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation. The backpack when full shouldn’t weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight, according to the AAP.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York Presbyterian Hospital, American Academy of Pediatrics, Texas Children’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, American Academy of Ophthalmology

Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist who frequently covers children’s-health issues. 

What else would you add to our back-to-school health checklist? Please share!