LHN: Back to School checkups – the cornerstone of a healthy year

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ADAMS) – With homeschooling and hybrid learning disrupting classroom learning for the past 18 months, it’s easy to forget what preparing for a “normal” school year might look like for the nearly 96,200 Allen County students.

In addition to buying new clothes, dorm furnishings and stocking your child’s backpack with the right supplies, Lutheran Health Network recommends an annual physical and the proper immunizations to help start your child’s new school year on a healthy foundation.

The following guidance was released by LHN officials:

“Practitioners can use clinic visits for routine examinations, such as well-child checkups, preparticipation athletic evaluations and chronic disease management, to provide a range of preventive services,” says Barb Rondot, APRN, FNP-BC, Lutheran Health Physicians. “These clinical encounters offer an opportunity for early identification of risk behavior and disease, updating immunizations, and offering health guidance.”

The purpose of preventive services is to reduce serious morbidity and premature mortality both during childhood and in later years. Preventive services typically fall into four categories: screening, counseling to reduce risk, providing immunizations, and giving general health guidance.

“The purpose of screening is to look at the developmental and psychosocial aspects of a child’s life, teaching parents what to expect and when to seek help. ” says Rondot. “Having a relationship with the family and a baseline of information of a child’s progress both physically and developmentally make it possible for a practitioner to detect any changes and to initiate early intervention.”

Children should receive an annual checkup with their provider even if they are healthy. At a checkup, your child will receive a full physical exam including measurements such as height and weight. This is a good time for parents to discuss any developmental, emotional or social concerns with the provider. Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover a free annual well-child visit.

Immunizations are another important way to protect your child’s health. While COVID vaccinations are not yet available for children under the age of 12, there are numerous other vaccines parents should discuss with their child’s provider, especially for children beginning school for the first time.

Receiving the right shots at the right time will help protect your child from contracting various diseases and help prevent the spread to others. Talk with your provider to learn what vaccinations your child should receive and at what age. You can find a vaccine guide for parents below.

“Immunizations protect the child being vaccinated, but for most vaccine-preventable diseases, achieving high levels of immunization in the community offers indirect protection to others, because they are not exposed to infectious organisms,” explains Rondot. “Children who cannot receive some vaccines, such as children with immunodeficiencies or are not yet the appropriate age, are indirectly protected when there is high coverage around those children.”

The CDC’s recommended schedule (birth through 16 years old) is the ONLY vaccination schedule in the U.S. that is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. This same schedule is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

“The vaccines recommended in the CDC schedule are carefully timed to provide protection to children when they are most vulnerable to diseases, and when the vaccines will produce the strongest response from the child’s immune system. It is therefore very important to follow the schedule as closely as possible,” concludes Rondot.

Sources: Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services

AAP Bright Futures, CDC

Vaccines: A Guide for Parents

Vaccine protection far outweighs the small risk of serious side effects. Thanks to vaccines, many serious childhood diseases are rare today. Without vaccines, diseases can return and impact large numbers of the population. Click here for a “Birth through Age 18 Immunization Schedule” as recommended by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

COVID-19 Vaccination

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends use of COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 12 and older within the scope of the Emergency Use Authorization for the particular vaccine. COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines may be administered on the same day.

Flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is offered in a shot or nasal spray form. The shot contains dead viruses and the nasal-spray vaccine contains live but weakened viruses. Because flu viruses change each year, it is important to get the vaccine every year.

DTaP vaccine

DTaP protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Diphtheria is a disease that attacks the throat and heart, and can lead to heart failure and death. Tetanus (also called “lockjaw”) can lead to severe muscle spasms and death. Pertussis (also called “whooping cough”) can cause severe coughing that makes it hard to breathe, eat or drink. It can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death.

Td vaccine

The Td vaccine is used as a booster to the DTaP vaccine, to help prevent tetanus and diphtheria, given at age 11 or older and every 10 years throughout life.

IPV (Polio) vaccine

The IPV (inactivated poliovirus) vaccine helps prevent polio. Polio can cause muscle pain and paralysis in the legs or arms, as well as those muscles used to breathe and swallow, and can lead to death.

Rotavirus vaccine

The Rotavirus vaccine protects against the rotavirus which causes diarrhea, mostly in babies and young children. The diarrhea can be severe and cause dehydration. Rotavirus can also cause vomiting and fever in babies. Children receive a dose at 2 and 4 months of age, or three doses series at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. It depends on what your doctor recommends. All doses should be given before 8 months of age.

MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Measles causes fever, rash, cough, runny nose and watery eyes; as well as ear infections and pneumonia. Measles can also lead to brain swelling and even death. Mumps causes fever, headache and painful swelling of one or both of the major saliva glands. It can lead to meningitis (infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord). Rubella is also called the German measles. It causes slight fever, a rash and swelling of the glands in the neck. Rubella can also cause brain swelling or a problem with bleeding.

Hib vaccine

The Hib vaccine helps prevent Haemophilus influenza type b, a serious illness in children that can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and a severe throat infection that can cause choking.

Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine

The varicella vaccine helps prevent chickenpox. It is given to children once after they are 12 months old or to older children if they have never had chickenpox or been vaccinated.

HBV vaccine

The HBV vaccine helps prevent hepatitis B virus (HBV), an infection of the liver that can lead to liver cancer and death.

HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine helps prevent human papillomavirus infection, which can cause cervical cancer as well as genital warts. It is given as a 2- shot series if given around the age of 11 or 12 years of age. The second dose is given 6 months later. Children who start the vaccine on or after their 15th birthday need three shots given over 6 months.

Pneumococcal vaccine

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) protects against a common bacteria linked to ear infections as well as more serious illnesses, such as meningitis and bacteremia (infection in the blood stream).

Meningococcal vaccine

The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) protects against bacterial meningitis, an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. It is a serious illness that can cause high fever, headache, stiff neck and confusion, as well as more serious complications like brain damage, hearing loss or blindness.

Source: American Academy of Family Physicians (www.familydoctor.org)