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July 7, 2015

Get the Most Out of Your Child’s Back to School Physical

By Tampa Bay Parenting

Many parents and kids may not think about heading back to school during the middle of summer, but it’s a good time to make sure children are up-to-date on their health records and prepared for the first day of school. Doctors’ offices are very busy in August with the rush of kids who need an annual physical or vaccines in time for the start of school or the sports season. If you haven’t already made an appointment with your child’s pediatrician, it’s a good idea to make sure kids are up to date on their vaccines and have an exam for any new or recurring health issues.

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.

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.

Get Up-to-Date on Immunizations

There are several vaccines your child should receive throughout their childhood. It’s important to make sure they receive these at the correct times to protect them from harmful diseases. Many daycare centers, schools and camps also require shot records to be up to date, so it’s a good idea to get a copy of your child’s immunizations at their annual visit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a schedule to determine what vaccines your child needs at each age. Here’s an overview of the recommended vaccines certain age groups should receive in addition to those given in the first few years of life:

Ages 4-6

  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)
  • IPV (polio)
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Varicella
  • Flu (once a year)

Ages 7-10 – shots should be up to date by this age

Ages 11-12

  • Tdap(diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)
  • HPV (human papilloma virus)
  • Meningococcal (meningitis)
  • Flu (once a year)

Ages 13-18

  • HPV (human papilloma virus)
  • Meningococcal booster at 16 years old
  • Flu (once a year)

Sports Physicals

An annual exam is important for young athletes. 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.

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

Watch this video for more information on what to ask and what to expect at your child’s next physical.

Dr. Dawkins Tampa Bay Parenting 2015 JulyRachel Dawkins, M.D., F.A.A.P., is medical director of the Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine Clinic at All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine. Originally from the St. Petersburg area, Dr. Dawkins completed undergraduate and medical school at the University of Miami. She moved to New Orleans for residency at Louisiana State University and then spent six years as a faculty member and an associate program director for the pediatric residency program.


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