Jane Byrd, M.D.
Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine (Children)
The current school year may not be over yet, but before you know it, it will be back-to-school season. Instead of waiting until later summer to schedule your child’s physical, now may be a better time.
Late summer often is filled with purchasing school supplies, finding new clothes for your children, wrapping up summer programs and scheduling back-to-school physicals. It is a smart idea for all parents to get their child a school physical every other year after age 6. Getting it done before summer starts may be important for a variety of reasons, including:
Opportunity to check developmental processes
During a routine physical, your primary care provider will check all of your child’s body systems to ensure there are no apparent problems. This allows you to catch any problems early and get your child the best early intervention resources available before the next school year starts.
A physical involves checking your child’s immunization records to ensure that he or she is up to date with all required immunizations. Your child’s school may require this information before admitting your child.
Safe behaviors, such as wearing a helmet, using a seat belt, or securing firearms in the home, may be discussed during your child’s physical. These all are good reminders for behaviors that will keep your child safe over the summer and the coming years.
Concerns for student athletes
Student athletes may need additional discussion about healthy eating, safe exercise practices or how to manage a physical condition while playing sports. Getting an injury checked early can help ensure your child is recovering properly and ready to play again this fall.
How to get the most from a back-to-school physical
The best way to maximize the effectiveness of the school physical is to go in with a plan. Make a list of questions you have about your child’s health. Do you have specific concerns about your child’s health or development? Is your child falling behind in some way? Keep in mind that apparent cognitive or behavioral problems, such as being distracted or disruptive in class, sometimes can have physical origins, such as poor eyesight. Think about the following problems:
- Has your child complained of any pain, fatigue, dizziness or digestive problems?
- Has your child reached important developmental milestones on time?
- Has your child experienced any learning difficulties or other classroom problems?
- Have your child’s eating habits changed?
- Does your child seem anxious or depressed?
- How well does your child sleep?
Your child’s provider will likely address many of these points through the physical. However, there will be time for you to ask questions during the exam to ensure you are fully supported in your child’s overall health and well-being.