Kids heading back to school? Time for an annual check-up
Back to school is upon us! Time to grab those pens, pencils and backpacks and get that yearly physical. Jennifer Clair, MD, a physician with Total Family Care, said there is no time like the present to get in and get your annual check-up.
What is a back-to-school physical?
Jennifer Clair, MD
Dr. Clair said that back-to-school physicals typically look at your child’s growth, height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as making sure vaccinations are up-to-date and other pivotal things to prepare them for hitting the hallways this next semester.
“We will also do an overall wellness check to make sure there are no unrecognized health issues that may cause a problem and vision checks to ensure they are seeing well,” she said. “If your child is playing a sport this coming year, the sports physical is a little more in-depth and covers screening to identify any underlying health concerns that may make it more difficult to compete in sports.”
When you come in for your sports physical, Dr. Clair said to ensure you have the sports physical form with you. This form can be found on the school website and gives the doctor the information they need to sign off.
“With the form, we can take care of the sports physical and yearly check-up all at once. If a health issue is detected, it does not mean 100% of the time that the student cannot compete,” Dr. Clair said. “If there is an orthopedic issue that has not been fully resolved, we may be able to clear the student but emphasize the limitations or alternatives. If it is a cardiac condition, it may be more serious. Regardless, we will send them to another specialist for further evaluation.”
Dr. Clair said yearly physicals are typically very quick and non-invasive. After paperwork, examination and vaccine checks, the appointment takes around 20-30 minutes.
“These visits are fairly simple and important for evaluating your child’s health,” she said. “A yearly check-up is important, but also be mindful of your children’s health while at home. Be alert for signs of changes to health or activity level and loss of interest in usual activities that may be the result of illness.”
Another thing that may be helpful is to go over your vaccine history at your annual visit. The state vaccine registry can show your primary care provider which vaccines you have had and when you received them, even if it was not at LMH Health.
“The registry will show us anywhere in Kansas you have had a vaccine,” Dr. Clair explained. “Even if you have out-of-state records, we can enter those in so that you can conveniently see your past vaccinations at any visit or call to have a list sent to you.”
Tina Sarber, a pharmacist at LMH Health, said there are no new vaccine requirements for kids going back to school. However, it is important to stay up-to-date on your child’s vaccine schedule.
“When kids start kindergarten between 4-6 years of age, they will be required to get booster doses of previous vaccines,” she said. “These additional boosters will be for tetanus, polio, measles mumps rubella (MMR) and chicken pox.”
The next set of vaccine requirements starts between grades 6-7, or ages 11-12. At this age, children get a new vaccine they have not had before called meningococcal. The Centers for Disease Control describes meningococcal as any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. This is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, which is why vaccination is extremely important. Additionally, at this age, you will want to get a tetanus booster.
“There is also the option for the HPV vaccine which can protect against cervical cancer,” Sarber said. “This vaccine is available for both girls and boys. If you chose to start the vaccine between ages 11-12, only two shots are required. After the age of 13, it goes up to three shots.”
Sarber said that before signing off on a sports physical, the required vaccines will need to be up-to-date. After this last series of vaccinations, there are no further requirements until 10 years later, which will be another tetanus booster.
“Parents will sometimes worry that their child is receiving too many vaccines all at one time. Though it is perfectly safe to receive all the needed vaccines mentioned at one time, we completely understand wanting to space them out,” Sarber said. “If this is the case, we encourage you to talk with your child’s primary care provider to ask questions about delaying and spacing them out. You can come back a few different times to complete them, or have them given all at once.”
She said she and her family just encountered the next round of vaccines for their children, so she understands the many different preferences. She said the age of your children may impact where you want to get your vaccines.
“For those ages 4-6 we encourage you to get your vaccines at your annual visits,” she said. “For those in the 11-12 age range, you are welcome to get your vaccines as your annual visit or go to any local pharmacy, including the LMH Health System Pharmacy. The teams at LMH Health and in our pharmacy are here to help answer any questions and make sure you, your family and your kids are taken care of and ready for the new school year.”