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School Physicals: What to Expect & Why They're Important

Dr. Fox with a patientTo the disappointment of many kids, summer seems to pass by faster each year. Before we know it, it’ll be time to load up on pencils, rulers and backpacks and head back to school. As you begin planning back-to-school shopping trips, don’t forget to schedule your back-to-school appointment with your child’s doctor.

Because most visits during the year are due to illness or injury, a school physical is a good time to discuss your child’s health and development with their doctor. Visiting the same doctor year after year allows the doctor to build a relationship with your child and serve as their medical home throughout childhood. Establishing this relationship ensures that the doctor knows your child’s medical history, past illnesses and injuries, and is aware of his or her progress in development over time.

Annual physicals are especially important from ages two through five (more frequent visits are recommended prior to age two). Before a child enters kindergarten, in particular, the doctor will make sure your child is up-to-date on vaccinations. Most schools require immunization records as part of the registration process. As a parent, you can come to the appointment with any questions you have about your child’s health – from coughs and growth concerns to possible learning disabilities.

Physicals are especially important during adolescence. The doctor can talk to your child about puberty and development, but also about social issues like sex, drugs and drinking. Doctors can also get a feel for your child’s self-esteem and mental health.

If your child plays sports, he may need a sports physical every year. The doctor will be sure that he is physically capable of participating in their chosen sport. Your healthcare provider will also make sure your child has no heart or breathing issues, and ask about past injuries, such as concussions.

A doctor will also help instill healthy values, like wearing helmets and seat belts, eating well and exercising, and having a positive self-image. An annual school physical gives you the assurance that you’re raising a happy, healthy child who is ready to take on the world with another year of school.

To schedule a school or sports physical, call your MercyCare clinic. To find a new provider, visit www.mercycare.org/clinics or call the MercyCare referral line at 319-369-4444.