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Children usually dislike visiting the doctor but failure to get physical examinations, shots and eyes tested, especially for those starting kindergarten and first grade, could lead to serious learning problems in school that could escalate into obstacles to success when they become adults.

“It’s important for every child to have a physical every year, not just the ones going into kindergarten,” said Dr. Eric Tyler of Pediatric Associates of Alexander City. “It represents a snapshot of a child’s life and those data points can be used down the road to see if they have a chronic disorder.”

Tyler said his philosophy is to make sure all children are screened and get regular checkups not only to assure good health but to detect dangerous congenital conditions, anemia, high cholesterol, depression and autism, among others.

“If you screen everybody, you miss nobody,” Tyler said. “Invest in your child like you would your car. You want your car to last a long time so you take it in for regular service.”

Vaccinations begin at birth and continue to the 18th month, then boosters are given at age 4 or 5 and even into the late teens, Tyler said.

Early eye examinations are just as vital because what appears to be a learning disability could be caused by blurry vision that could easily be corrected.

“Vision is so important for kids in school,” said optometrist Dr. James Nobles of Alexander City’s Eye Associates. “If they don’t have good vision, their education will suffer. The older they get, the smaller the print gets as the demand on their eyes increases. You see kids failing in school and they’ve gone a year or two years without being checked and the parents are wondering why their child is doing so bad. We get the best clothes, the best backpacks and the best shoes but somehow we forget the easy stuff, the essential stuff.”

Nobles urges parents to regularly bring their children to an eye specialist.

“A lot of times screening at school doesn’t tell the whole story,” he said.

Regular eye exams are important even for those who have perfect vision but Nobles said parents should be vigilant for certain symptoms indicating their child is struggling to see.

“Watch if they rub their eyes, have headaches, have a short attention span, avoid reading, tilt their head to one side or another or lose their place when reading,” he said. “I always say if you notice anything unusual, bring them in immediately. They need to be checked at age 3 or 4 before school starts. The biggest ages later on are 8, 9, 10 when nearsightedness starts to kick in.”

Nobles said nearsightedness is the most common condition he diagnoses and it could be avoided in some cases by closely monitoring a child’s exposure to digital devices.

“There is evidence that not getting outside and focusing on distant things is a factor plus genetics plays a part,” he said. “Playing video games and being on their phone a lot contributes to it. Parents should limit that time.”

Eye exams check for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, misaligned eyes, depth perception and color blindness, among other conditions.

Children in school should have their eyes checked every two years even if they have no problems with their vision, according to allaboutvision.com. Children who need glasses or contact lenses should be examined annually.

Babies should be able to see as well as adults in focus, color vision and depth perception by 6 months.

Preschool children don’t need to know their letters in order to undergo certain eye tests, even when they are too young or too shy to verbalize. For those ages, eye doctors use symbols similar to regular eye tests using charts with letters, including an apple, house, square and circle.

Vaccination schedule

Birth

• HepB: Hepatitis B vaccine. Ideally, the first dose is given within 24 hours of birth but children not previously immunized can get it at any age

1-2 months

• HepB: Second dose of Hepatitis B vaccine should be given 1 to 2 months after the first dose

2 months

• DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine

• Hib: Haemophilus influenza Type B vaccine

• IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

• PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

• RV: Rotavirus vaccine

4 months

• DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine

• Hib: Haemophilus influenza Type B vaccine

• IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

• PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

• RV: Rotavirus vaccine

6 months

• DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine

• Hib: This third dose may be needed depending on the brand of vaccine used in previous Hib immunizations

• PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

• RV: This third dose may be needed depending on the brand of vaccine used in previous RV immunizations

6 months and annually

• Influenza (flu): The flu vaccine is recommended every year for children 6 months and older. Kids younger than 9 who get the flu vaccine for the first time (or who have only had one dose before July 2018) will get it in two separate doses at least a month apart.

Those younger than 9 who have had at least two doses of flu vaccine previously (in the same or different seasons) will only need one dose.

Kids older than 9 only need one dose.

The vaccine is given by injection with a needle or by nasal spray. The flu shot is preferred for children of all ages because it has been shown to be safe and effective. Although the nasal spray was not used in recent years, a changed version of it is now recommended (for the 2018-19 flu season) for kids who may otherwise not get a flu shot. The nasal spray is only for healthy people ages 2 through 49. People with weakened immune systems or some health conditions (such as asthma) and pregnant women should not get the nasal spray vaccine. 

6-18 months

• HepB: Hepatitis B vaccine

• IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

12-15 months

• Hib: Haemophilus influenza Type B vaccine

• MMR: Measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles) vaccine

• PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

• Chickenpox (varicella)

12-23 months

• HepA: Hepatitis A vaccine; given as two shots at least 6 months apart

15-18 months

• DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine

4-6 years

• DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine

• MMR: Measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles) vaccine

• IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine

• Varicella

11-12 years

• HPV: Human papillomavirus vaccine, given in two shots over a 6- to 12-month period. It can be given as early as age 9. For teens and young adults (15-26 in girls and 15-21 in boys), it is given in three shots over 6 months. It’s recommended for both girls and boys to prevent genital warts and some types of cancer.

• Tdap: Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster. It’s also recommended during each pregnancy a woman has.

• Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: Booster dose is recommended at 16.

16-18 years

• Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB): The MenB vaccine may be given to kids and teens in two or three doses, depending on the brand. Unlike the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which is recommended, the MenB vaccine is given at the discretion of the doctor.