The countdown is on, and parents and kids alike are feeling the pressure to get ready for school – there are school supplies to be bought, first-day outfits to be chosen, and anxieties to be calmed. But that’s not the end of the list. A great start to the school year also means the healthiest start possible.
Whether your child is starting preschool or high school, it’s important (and in some states, mandatory) to ensure that his or her medical records are current and, of course, that he or she is healthy. Most schools require a medical clearance form before kids can attend school or join extracurricular sports.
Here are a few of the many things that should be covered in your child’s annual check up.
First and foremost, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that your child’s immunizations be up to date. In Florida, except for religious or philosophical reasons, your child’s immunizations must be kept current. Most vaccine series have been started by age 2, so the concern for school-age children is that they continue the series and get appropriate booster shots on time. A list of Florida immunization requirements can be found on the AAP website, www.aap.org.
Hearing & Vision Health
Whether required or not, an annual evaluation of children’s hearing and vision should be part of the back-to-school routine. Impaired vision or hearing can adversely affect learning, and young children often don’t know or can’t articulate that they can’t see or hear properly.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 12 million children suffer from visual impairment. One in 20 preschoolers is affected, and one in four school-age children have a vision impairment. If you notice your child squinting to read or exhibiting any other eye problems, notify the doctor during the physical exam. And make sure your child uses protective eyewear while playing sports.
Behavioral and Special Health Concerns
During an annual check up, aspects of behavioral development, such as speech and socialization, learning issues, and others may also be checked. If you have any concerns about your child’s development this is a great time to bring it to the attention of the doctor for further testing if needed. If your child has any special medical needs, these also need to be addressed with the school. For instance, if you child needs medication throughout the day, parents need to ensure the appropriate people are informed about proper dosage.
Managing Asthma and Allergies
Asthma symptoms sometimes dissipate during the summer, so kids may be taken off their medication or have their dosage altered. If your child has developed seasonal allergies, it is recommended that you set up separate visits in the spring and fall so your pediatrician can recommend proper preventive care for each season.
For children with severe food allergies, or other allergies that can cause anaphylactic shock (like allergy to bee stings), parents are required to give written consent for the school to administer epinephrine, otherwise the school is prohibited from doing so.
Today, one in every three school-age children is considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity can lead to health problems (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and many others), and can subject your child to social stigma.
Genetics plays a role, so be especially mindful if obesity runs in your family. During your child’s annual physical exam, your pediatrician will check his or her body mass index (BMI) and ask about his or her diet and activity level. If your child is overweight, both may need to be adjusted. And remember, children need at least one hour of physical activity every day.
The Importance of Back to School Physicals
While a physical exam may not seem urgent if your child appears healthy and strong, a yearly exam is a critical part of your child’s health care. A physician can detect signs of poor health and identify early symptoms of a more serious illness that may not be obvious in its early stages. It also presents the perfect time for you or your child to ask questions about health, fitness, and other medical-related issues that may be of concern for your growing child. Many times the annual exam is the child’s only doctor appointment all year.
The summer months leading up to the beginning of a school year are among the busiest times of the year at a doctor’s office, and this can make getting an appointment a difficult task.
Having trouble getting into your regular family doctor? The Urgent Care Center can provide quality care for you and your family. Urgent Care Center physicians are equipped and qualified to handle all of your family’s general medical needs- from a common cold to school physicals and beyond. Not to mention that an Urgent Care Center’s extended hours make getting your child in for a physical easier and more convenient than your regular doctor’s office.
Estero Medical Center
10201 Arcos Ave., Suite 105
Estero, FL 33928
Cay West Pavilion
1708 Cape Coral Pwky. W., Suite 2
Cape Coral, FL 33914