What to Expect During Back-to-School Check-Ups

A yearly physical exam by your family physician or pediatrician is an important part of your child’s health care.

As children get older, back to school check-ups are sometimes the only visit kids and teenagers have with their doctor every year. An annual check-up gives the physician a chance to give the child a thorough physical examination. It also presents a great opportunity to discuss important topics, especially with teenagers, including adolescent issues like drinking, smoking, drugs and depression.

If a child is participating in sports at school, there is no substitute for a sports physical performed by the family physician or pediatrician to accomplish the goals of the sports exam. When it comes to playing sports, a child’s health is the most important factor.  Getting sports physical, or a pre-participation physical examination, makes sure that the child is healthy enough to play and alleviates concerns, as well as identifies potential issues.

Here’s what you can expect at your child’s back to school or annual physical:

Part #1 – Medical History:  Reviewed with the child and parent, discussing the child’s medical history enables the doctor to get a better idea of the child’s overall health throughout his or her lifetime.  It also helps the doctor to understand if the child may have any potential health (physical, psycho-social /emotional) issues.  This is also an ideal time to bring up any questions or concerns about the child so that the physician can best address those issues during the exam.

Part #2 – Physical Examination: The actual physical examination is the part of the office visit when the doctor will assess and record critical health elements such as the child’s height and weight, vital signs including heart health, organs, posture, joints, strength and flexibility.  During the physical exam, the doctor will also check hearing, vision and ask questions relating to milestones determine if the child is on track in all areas of physical and mental development.  If any areas of concern are identified, the physician may require additional testing for the child, either in the office or with a specialist.

Speak Up: You know your child best so anytime you take your child to the doctor, it is extremely important to bring up any pre-existing conditions, observations or concerns with your child’s health to the provider.  When having your child screened for a sports physical, in addition to the physician screening for heart and lung irregularities, be sure to bring up any questions or issues with asthma, irregularities or previous injuries.  The doctor may prescribe or adjust medication to address a child’s symptoms or make activity easier by suggesting modifications.  The doctor may also be able to give training tips and advice to help a child avoid future injuries or strain on the body.  Discussing potential issues and health concerns ahead of time can ensure a safe sports season and prevent unnecessary risk to your child.

Remember, annual physical visits are a crucial part of the back-to-school routine.

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Dr. Jann Caison-Sorey is a pediatrician and senior medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

Photo credit:  S Jones

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