Back to School Physicals

Parents, soon you will be rushing to buy clothes and school supplies. Then there’s your child’s annual school physical to consider.  Is it really all that important?  Your child has been running around all summer and, judging by his appetite and outgrown clothes, seems very healthy.

The short answer is yes! The annual physical is a great opportunity to take a comprehensive look at your child’s health.

Why should my kids visit their primary physician over a health care outlet?

Firstly, your child’s pediatrician will provide continuity in health care with records of growth, immunization, medical history and ongoing care. This kind of care cannot be duplicated by a walk-in clinic.

A perfect example is your child’s standardized growth curve that their primary physician can immediately analyze based on prior measurements. If your doctor spots a new trend it will alert them to ask questions about nutrition, exercise and other symptoms that may signify a medical condition.

Plan Ahead

Your child’s annual visit is an opportunity to make the most of your time with the pediatrician. In this preventive care visit, the pediatrician usually examines your child for any changes in their health – from growth spurts to developmental issues. The pediatrician may ask questions about your child’s nutrition, exercise and any behavioral changes. They may also want to discuss how your child has done in school to see if there are any learning or behavioral issues that are concerning. Your child’s doctor will also talk about safety issues, including switching from car seats to booster seats or making sure your child always wears a helmet when bike riding.

According to Dr. Rachel Dawkins, it’s a good idea to prepare a short list of questions to ask the doctor. These could include:

What is a typical weight/height for my child’s age group?

How can I help improve my child’s overall nutrition and eating habits?

What are some safe ways for my child to exercise?

Remember to take notes during the visit and to bring any school forms that need to be filled out by the doctor. You may even want to give these forms to the nurse when you check in to be sure the forms get signed before you leave the appointment.

If your child plans to play a sport here a few additional questions:

Is there approved safety equipment I should purchase?

Should my child get a follow-up exam if they experience a sports injury?

What should my child’s physical consist of?

A comprehensive physical will include a review of your child’s weight, height, body mass index (BMI) and vital signs, like blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. Their pediatrician will also check their heart, lungs abdomen, eyes, ears, nose and throat. If your child decides to play a sport this year the doctor should also address recent injuries, cardiac issues, concussion history and asthma. In a perfect world, have your child’s sports physical about 6-weeks before the start of the activity.

Your child will also be given immunizations to keep them up-to-date before starting school. You can find the list of immunizations for each age group here.

Remember, even if you think your child is up to date on their immunizations, it’s important to visit the pediatrician at least once a year to discuss your child’s growth, development and any other potential health issues. Consider making their annual visit during the summer

Sports Physicals

An annual exam is important for young athletes. According to, during a sports physical your child’s pediatrician will likely perform cardiac, joint and neurological exams, checking eyesight, muscle strength and other areas that could affect performance on the sports field. Be prepared to discuss prior sports injuries (such as concussions or muscle tears) and any family history of cardiac issues.

To stay active, young athletes need a healthy diet and plenty of fluids. Your pediatrician will want to discuss their nutrition and exercise habits. Again, don’t forget to bring any sports physical forms that need to be filled out by the pediatrician and are required by coaches in order for your child to participate in their activity.

The most important part of your child’s health is being involved and having them communicate with you when something doesn’t feel right. Remember that doctors are not mind readers so if you think something is wrong, say something.

By Angela Ardolino of Parenting with Angela,