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How To: Screen your kids at home

Parents can do a lot to watch for health problems, in addition to regular visits to doctors and dentists. Here are some head-to- toe checks to do on a regular basis, pediatricians say:

Make sure shoes fit. Because kids' feet can grow so fast, many have footwear that is too small — which can cause ingrown toenails, calluses, blisters and stunted toe growth. Every few weeks, see if there's a thumb width of space between the front of the shoe and the longest toe.

Watch their eyes … Warning signs of vision problems include squinting, closing one eye when focusing, avoiding books and coloring activities and having one eye that turns somewhat inward or outward. If you notice any of those symptoms, call an eye doctor.

… and ears. Take note if your baby doesn't startle at loud noises or turn toward sounds and familiar voices, or if a young child has limited speech, doesn't respond to questions and conversational cues, and often turns up the volume on televisions and radios.

Check their nails. Changes in color, thickness or texture can point to a wide range of health problems, as well as an infection.

Scan their skin. Watch for new growths, rashes or changes in existing moles. After a child has been outside, check their skin from head to toe for ticks; removing a tick the same day it attaches will greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Open their mouth. Even if kids brush their teeth twice a day and visit a dentist twice a year — as recommended — look for signs of tooth discoloration and swollen gums about once a week. If you think there's a problem, call a dentist.

— By Alison Johnson

How-to is a weekly feature on health, nutrition and fitness.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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