4 Reasons to Get a Back-to-School Physical

Jul 23, 2021

Back-to-School means back to business this year for children and families everywhere. And following more than a year of change marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a little bit of normal is very welcome. So with the new school year quickly approaching, it’s a good time to mark “back-to-school physical” off your checklist.

A back-to-school physical (also called a well-child check-up), is a great (and healthy) way for your child to start the school year. During the physical, a primary care provider will evaluate your child’s growth and development, perform any needed vaccines or immunizations, and listen to your questions or concerns about your child’s health and well-being.

Here are four reasons getting this physical is important:

1. Staying on top of your child’s well-being (and helping reduce the risk of health surprises)

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, physician office visits for pre-school children (birth to five years old) are far more common than for school-aged children (6-11 years) and adolescents (12-17 years). As children develop and parents get more confidant in their growth, the well-child check-up tends to get put off, but they are critical for early preventive care.

DeKalb Medical Group’s Tennille Gaines, DNP, CRNP recommends back-to-school screenings and check-ups for children, teens and college students up to age 21.

“These well-child visits are important to monitor a child’s development and screen for conditions including heart conditions or cancer, and they allow us to make specialist referrals if needed,” said Gaines, who has been a certified registered pediatric nurse practitioner with DeKalb Clinic for more than 17 years. “Additionally, these visits allow providers to check for things that may be missed at a sick visit during the cold and flu season.”

2. COVID-19 Protection

With COVID-19 still very much a reality in our community, it’s important for your child to get vaccinated for their safety and the safety of those they may be around if they are returning to in-person learning this school year.

According to Gaines, it’s recommended that children ages 12 and up get the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines can all be administered at the same visit. Some locations in DeKalb County where the vaccine is being administered include:

  • DeKalb Clinic (only available to those ages 18 and up at this time)
  • DeKalb Family Medicine
  • DeKalb County Health Department

To find a vaccine clinic in your area, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard.

3. Answering Questions

The back-to-school physical is a good opportunity to get questions about your child’s health answered, face-to-face, with a family provider who knows you and your children. Write your questions down ahead of time. Worried about your child’s sleep habits? The amount of screen time they’re getting? Who much exercise they should be getting? Use this time to gain crucial understanding of your child’s health and wellness habits.

4. Sports Participation

School sports are exciting school activities for children and teens (and you as parents). Sports help kids stay active, socialize and experience being part of a team. A sports-specific physical can help determine whether it’s safe for your child to participate in that particular sport, helping to identify potential health issues.

For example, your family care provider may recommend certain exercises or medications for a child who has asthma or a previous injury. He or she can also point out what may be potential risk factors associated with the specific sport. Sports physicals look similar to the general physical and can often be administered at the same time.

The sports physical generally includes evaluating your child’s medical history, reviewing sport-specific questions and a physical exam. During the physical exam, a provider will:

  • measure height and weight
  • take blood pressure
  • listen to the heart and lungs
  • feel the abdomen
  • examine the ears, nose, throat and eyes
  • test strength and flexibility

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your student-athlete has tested positive for COVID-19, depending on how severe their symptoms were, they should not play a sport until a doctor has screened them for heart symptoms. “In some cases, adolescents who tested positive for COVID-19 and participate in sports may need to see a cardiologist or have an EKG,” said Gaines. Heart symptoms the doctor will ask about could include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, irregular heartbeat or fainting.

So overall, the importance of back-to-school and sports physicals cannot be understated. If your child is in need of a physical, get started now. If you don’t have a primary care provider, visit DeKalbAnytime.com to find one and schedule an appointment online that fits your schedule. Tennille Gaines is currently accepting new patients — so schedule your visit now.