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Health checks in childhood

Your child will be offered a number of NHS health checks to help monitor their development.

Childhood screening

Screening for children continues up to the age of 16 and is designed to make sure that any health problems they may have are spotted and can be dealt with early. Tests include:

The School Entry Health Check

All children have key indicators of health assessed at primary school entry, when they are four to five years old. This is called the School Entry Health Check. This check will only be done if a parent consents. It consists of three parts:

- Growth – the height and weight of your child will be measured. If either are found to be very high or low, your child will be referred to your GP or a community paediatrician for further investigation.

- Hearing – while most hearing problems should be detected earlier, your child's hearing will be checked when they start school. The test, called a sweep hearing test, will aim to confirm that your child's hearing is normal at different frequencies of sound. If the test reveals any hearing problems your child will be referred to a GP.

- Vision – your child's vision will be checked. A trained healthcare professional does the examination. This is usually a standard eye test (also known as a vision acuity test), where the child is asked to read lines of letters from a chart. Your child may be referred to a GP, special clinic or optician for further investigation if there is a problem with their sight.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening condition. All people with diabetes at the age of 12 and over should be screened for it annually. If your child has diabetes, soon after his or her 12th birthday you'll receive a letter inviting them for diabetic retinopathy screening. This usually takes place at your GP surgery, a local optometrist or a local hospital.

Childhood testing

In addition to the screening programmes discussed above, there is a wide range of medical tests that your child may have, usually at the recommendation of your GP. These include:

Anaemia test

If your child has symptoms such as tiredness, faintness and difficulty breathing, it’s possible they may be suffering from anaemia. To check for it, your GP may recommend a blood test to measure the level of red cells in the blood.

Thyroid function test

The thyroid is a gland that produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism (the rate at which it uses energy). If it isn’t functioning properly your child may experience health problems. Thyroid problems are most common in children around the age of puberty. Your GP can do a blood test to check for this if your child has symptoms suggesting their thyroid gland isn't working properly.

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can include:

- weight gain
- tiredness
- hoarse voice
- delayed puberty
- rough, dry skin

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) include:

- tremors
- irritability
- excessive crying or overemotional behaviour
- short attention span
- increased appetite
- weight loss
- an inability to thrive

Asthma test

Lung and airway function can become impaired because of respiratory conditions, such as asthma.

If your child has symptoms that may be due to asthma, their GP can assess your child’s lung function by performing a peak flow test. Your child will be asked to blow hard into a handheld peak flow meter. If there's a problem with your child's lung function, your GP will recommend further tests.

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