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Back-to-School Wellness Checkup

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A new school year is coming up fast and now is the time to make sure your child has a wellness physical.

If you take care of school-aged children, you know that’s just one reason to schedule a back-to-school physical. Your school district will have specific guidelines; for some, the annual physical is mandatory. Most districts also need proof of up-to-date immunizations before your child can enter certain grades.

Setting aside time for a general health checkup will allow the doctor to thoroughly assess your child’s physical and psycho-social development, and provide an opportunity to answer your questions. Check your health insurance for well visits to make sure you’re covered. You can also see what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for a wellness physical at https://www.aap.org/en-us/Pages/Default.aspx.

What can you expect from a back-to-school checkup?

The physical aspect of the exam should include an assessment of:

  • Spinal alignment to rule out scoliosis.
  • Eyes, ears, nose, skin, and mouth for any abnormalities that may need follow-up
  • Fine and gross motor development
  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reflexes

Children at risk for lead poisoning or tuberculosis may be screened for those issues, and kids who are overweight or with a family history of high cholesterol may have their cholesterol checked.

Sexually active teenagers should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, and girls should have a pelvic exam. Your doctor should also talk to older children about what to expect as their bodies begin to change at puberty.

While your at the doctor’s office, have them look at your child’s immunization records to make sure everything is up to date. If not, see if your child can get the necessary vaccines.

Sometimes, a psychological and behavioral exam, based on the child’s age, is included. The doctor should ask questions about school performance, including achievements or difficulties, and also about friendships and socialization.

Expect that your doctor may also talk about injury prevention, such as requiring your child to wear a bike helmet and protective gear when playing sports; safely storing firearms in your home; and making wise health decisions regarding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Before visiting the pediatrician:

  • Make a list of the questions you want to ask. It’s easy to forget some of your questions once you’re in the office.
  • Remind your doctor if your child is homeschooled so they will include vision and hearing screenings in the visit (these are typically done at school).
  • Request age-appropriate nutrition counseling if you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity or weight issues.
  • Direct your young athlete’s exam toward sports issues, such as training, nutrition, and exercise, and ask about signs of overuse injuries.
  • Maintain a regular schedule of well visits so your child will develop a trusting relationship with your pediatrician. This will enhance continuity of care, and the doctor will be able to assess conditions more readily because they’ll have a well-established baseline of information about your child.

Many schools will begin classes by late August or early September. Now’s the time to make sure your little one is all set to go!

Story source: Lynda Shrager, http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/lynda-shrager-the-organized-caregiver/5-tips-for-a-successful-back-to-school-checkup/

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