School Physicals and
Why should I pay to have my perfectly-healthy child have a physical exam before
school starts or he participates in school sports?
A fairly typical school policy is to
require incoming kindergartners and incoming seventh-graders to have a full
physical and update their immunization schedules before starting school. New
students are usually asked to provide documentation of an individual physical
as well. Many districts refer low-income patients for free physicals, so
finances need not be a deterrent to taking this annual step toward excellent
health-care practice. If your child is going to participate in
school-sanctioned sports, he or she will most likely have to have a sports
physical before they can practice or join the team as well.
Academy of Pediatrics generally frowns on the "cattle call" type of sports
physicals often scheduled in gyms at the start of the sports season, usually
when physicals are mandated and the school is making them available free. The
problem is that one doctor may see 50 or 60 young patients in one hour,
obviously not an optimal situation for professional health-care assessment. The
doctor often doesn't have each student's medical history, privacy and
confidentiality may be compromised, and there usually is a complete lack of
one-on-one attention that your child can get from his or her own physician is
superior to that situation.
recommend strongly to parents that they bring their child in for a routine
physical once a year, on through the teen years, because of the more focused,
individual treatment and careful procedures that are priceless for ensuing that
nothing will be overlooked.
Your school may
have a form you are supposed to fill out for this purpose, so check before you
go, or see if your doctor's office has a form you can use.
back-to-school physical might include:
· Review of immunization
· Record height and weight
· Full developmental assessment
· Screen vision and hearing
· Test hemoglobin level
· Check a urine sample
· Perform a thorough physical exam
· Discuss safety issues such as bike helmets and skateboarding
· Provide advice regarding nutrition, sleep, and behavior
It's important to
teach your child to think of his or her doctor as an important resource, and to
feel free to ask questions about weight control, overtraining, depression,
sexuality and other hot topics that there simply isn't time for in a mass
screening at school.
As your child approaches
and goes through adolescence, you might use that car ride to and from the
doctor's office for the annual physical as an opportunity to talk to your child
about sex, drugs and alcohol. You know you should do that, but we're all so
busy, that it might help you "benchmark" whether you got "the talk" in that
year if you mentally schedule it for that car ride.
a transcript of a doctor being interviewed about the importance of the school
physical, and how parents and students can prepare to make optimal use of that
time in terms of managing their health: