Back-to-School Tips

August 30, 1994
Media Contact:Debbie Bangledorf
Phone: (410) 223-1731
E-mail: DBangledorf@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

Here are some back-to-school tips from experts at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center:

MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD GETS A HEALTHY START

Before a child starts the school year, it's important for him or her to have a complete physical examination and be updated on vaccinations. Janet Serwint, M.D., director of the Children's Center's Harriet Lane Primary Care Clinic, says that by the time children start school, they should have had the following immunizations:

Serwint says that children also should have tuberculosis and vision and hearing screenings "Kids need to know they are in tip-top shape before starting school," she says.

Vaccinations can be obtained from regular pediatricians or local health departments.

HEAD LICE

Head lice infestation can be avoided if parents and teachers work together, says Alain Joffe, M.D., director of adolescent medicine at the Children's Center.

Lice are most often transferred by head-to-head contact. But it is also possible for a child to get them by using another child's towel, brush, comb or hat. Lice look like dandruff, but the small, white creatures adhere to the hairs rather than the scalp. They are most often located behind the ears or near the nape of the neck. "A child with head lice must be removed from school immediately. He or she can then return the morning after completing the treatment," says Joffe. All parents of the child's classmates should be alerted so they can check their children for infestation.

Head lice are no cause for shame; they don't result from poor hygiene. Effective shampoo treatments are available over the counter and by prescription. The lice usually are gone within days.

EYE EXAMS

According to Michael X. Repka, M.D., a Hopkins pediatric ophthalmologist, many school- age children have vision problems that can result in educational difficulties. A comprehensive eye exam by a professional can help ensure that a child's eyes are ready for the school year ahead.

Repka says all children should have their eyes examined at six months of age and again by age 4 for visual acuity, presence of cataracts, alignment problems, and eye diseases.

The standard Snellen "E" chart has been widely used and is well accepted for preschoolers, Repka says. Children under 5 should read the 20/40 (next to smallest) line with both eyes. If there is a two-line difference in vision between eyes, children should be referred to an eye doctor for examination.

Children who are 5 or older should have their eyes examined regularly during pediatric visits or between visits if they complain of vision problems. Repka encourages additional screening by school and other volunteer organizations.

COMMUNICATE WITH CHILDREN ABOUT SCHOOL PHOBIAS

For children who have had problems in previous school years, returning to the classroom can be a traumatic experience. Leon Rosenberg, Ph.D., a child psychologist at the Children's Center, says parents should talk to their children in advance so the new year can be a positive one. "When children who have unreasonable expectations of themselves earn poor grades, they may feel like failures, saying 'I'll do better next time.' When that next time comes around, they may feel too much pressure to succeed," says Rosenberg.

Some tips for parents:

Rosenberg encourages parents to "take one day at a time." Hopefully, after the first few days, any problems will work themselves out.


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