Jane Byrd, M.D.
Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine (Children)
Many schools are planning on the return of familiar routines this fall after the recent COVID-19 pandemic disruptions. The outlook looks bright because of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for children age 12 and up, lower infection rates in our communities and new effective treatments. However, it's remains important to take necessary steps to protect your child's health. One key to this is regular physical exams with your child's primary care provider.
Late summer often is busy with purchasing school supplies, finding new clothes and wrapping up summer vacations. This year, add to your list scheduling your child's back-to-school physical. Most kids need a well-child visit with their provider every year from age 3 to 21. Once your children are of school age, some refer to the well-child visit as a school physical.
Getting a back-to-school physical done before summer ends is important for many reasons, including:
Monitoring developmental process
During a routine physical, your primary care provider will check all 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 the start of the new school year. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 12 and up. Talk with your child's primary care provider about vaccinating your child against COVID-19 during a back-to-school physical.
Sharing safety information
Safe behaviors, such as wearing a helmet, using a seat belt, and wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing, also may be discussed during your child's physical. These all are good reminders for behaviors that will keep your child safe as they move into the new school year.
Discussing athlete care
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 sports and be active again this fall.
Athlete discussions may include:
- How your child can manage sports training
- Managing playing sports after a concussion
- Preventing injuries
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 these issues:
- 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 likely will 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.
View more resources on children's health.