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Is it Safe to Schedule My Child’s Annual Well Check or Back to School Sports Physical?

Summer may be here, but the new school year will be starting up, whether it’s in-person, virtual learning, or a combination. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., medical director of the pediatric and adolescent medicine clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, says no matter the format of school this fall, it’s important to schedule those annual well checks and back-to-school physicals and measures medical offices are taking to keep your family safe.

Why is it important to schedule a visit to your pediatrician now?

In August, pediatrician offices are typically busy seeing kids who need an annual physical, sports physical or vaccines in time for the start of school. While the format of school and sports could change this year, it’s still important your child has an annual exam to do an overall health check for new or recurring issues and make sure they are up to date on vaccines. Vaccines are especially vital to keep up with so that we don’t see an outbreak of other diseases, such as whooping cough or measles, during this pandemic.

Can I choose a telemedicine visit instead of in-person for my child’s visit?

In general, we can discuss behavioral concerns, look at simple rashes and do follow-ups for stable problems like asthma or AD/HD via telemedicine. However, back-to-school physicals and sports physicals must be done in person. Children and teens need a complete head-to-toe physical exam at least once a year, particularly in order to be cleared to play sports. Physicians must also see patients in person to sign off on school forms. It’s not only important to check overall development during this in-person visit, but families should be prepared to discuss learning, behavior, puberty, nutrition, exercise, vision and hearing. With that said, if you’ve scheduled an annual visit but your child is feeling ill, it’s preferred to discuss those symptoms via telemedicine first or visit the pediatric emergency center and reschedule the in-person visit when your child is well.

What are doctor’s offices doing to ensure it’s safe to come in?

Doctor’s offices are taking every precaution to make sure families are safe in our clinics. For example, at Johns Hopkins All Children’s facilities, we’ve implemented the following safety measures:

*Screening all persons entering our buildings
*Masking for everyone, except children under 2 years old (employees interacting with patients also have additional personal protective equipment)
*Social distancing throughout the building, especially in waiting rooms, and separating those with COVID-19 symptoms
*Streamlining check-in so most patients can go directly to a room without waiting
*Frequently cleaning surfaces and equipment throughout the day, and before and after each child’s visit
*Maintaining hand hygiene and making hand sanitizer available to all on campus
*Limiting one caregiver to each patient so there are fewer people on campus

Bottom line – don’t delay your child’s care. If you have questions, your child needs care, a well-exam or vaccinations, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s physician and care team.

For more pediatric healthcare topics and information, visit

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.
Rachel Dawkins, M.D. is medical director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinics in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Department of Pediatric Medicine, seeing patients as a pediatrician in St. Petersburg, Florida. She also is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  Dr. Dawkins is active nationally with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Board of Pediatrics. Her research and teaching interests are in childhood resilience, advocacy, resident education and obesity. She earned her medical degree at the University of Miami. She completed her residency at Louisiana State University, where she also completed a year as chief resident. As a faculty member at LSU, Dr. Dawkins spent six years as an associate program director for the pediatric residency program.

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