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 is taking an annual physical so important for kids?

Your child’s primary care physician provides continuity with records of growth, immunizations, medical history and ongoing care.  This is indispensable in providing a comprehensive assessment of your child and is impossible to duplicate. For example, a child or adolescent’s growth is measured along a standardized growth curve and most follow a pattern that their doctor can immediately analyze based on prior measurements.  A new trend in growth alerts your child’s doctor to ask questions regarding nutrition, exercise and other symptoms that might be related to an underlying medical condition.

Annual physicals are also the ideal time for your child to get caught up on any required vaccination or inoculations.

How to prepare for your child’s physical?

Arranging your child’s back-to-school physical is only half the process. Coming in ready to discuss their health and development is just as important as showing up.

Before you arrive, write down any questions that you or your child may have regarding your child’s health and progress. If your child was sick in the past year, you may want to start by discussing how they recovered or any persisting symptoms.

Some questions to consider include:

–    Is my child’s weight within a normal, healthy range?
–    What is my child’s BMI?
–    What vaccinations (if any) does my child need? Why? Is it required?

Remember, there are no bad questions to ask your child’s doctor.

What extra steps should my doctor take to ensure my child is safe to play sports?

Your child may also decide to engage in sports acitivites this year. Dr. Daniel Plascenia of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hopsital says “During a sports physical, the doctor also will address current injuries, cardiac issues, history of concussion and asthma. Ideally sports physical should be done at least six weeks before the start of the activity.”

Make sure to speak with their pediatrician about what sports they plan to play and any safety precautions to take. Ask the pediatrician if they can recommend any sports equipment that will help keep them safe.

Don’t forget that your child’s annual physical is a good time for you to discuss mental health as well as physical. Paralleling their physical growth, children, especially adolescents, undergo changes in how they interact with the world around them.  By assessing the emotional health and coping skills in conversations with the child as well as the parent, issues can be addressed quickly.