Your back-to-school checklist should include an up-to-date physical so your child is ready to start the new school year.

The ABCs of back-to-school physicals

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Along with a new backpack, lunch box and school supplies for the new school year, make sure your to-do list includes a current physical and immunizations.

Back-to-school physicals cover the same ground as annual physicals. We do a full set of vitals. We look at blood pressure, heart rate, height and weight. We also check vision and hearing. Depending on the timing your child’s last annual physical, it can be used for back-to-school purposes, too.

Students who require sports physicals must be sure their last physical took place May 1 or later to be eligible to play the following school year in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If the appointment took place earlier than May 1, they would have to plan a separate sports physical.

Check-Up Checklist

In addition to vital signs, here’s what your pediatrician will be checking at an annual or back-to-school physical:

  • Learning Assessment: At every visit, we talk about how school is going and whether the child is experiencing any difficulties no matter how old they are. We will talk about whether a child can write his or her first name if they are in preschool, for example. We’ll talk about literacy. I encourage parents to read to kids because that’s the key to a better vocabulary and doing well in school.
  • Developmental Assessment: I also discuss issues pertaining to the child's stage of development. For preK and kindergarten kids, we’ll talk about whether they can write certain shapes, know their colors and if they can recite their parents’ names and phone number, for example.
    • I usually talk to my patients without their parents by the time they are 13 so we can have honest discussions. With tweens and up, I discuss social media safety, online predators, cell phone use and screen time, among other topics.
    • For high school and college kids, we talk about safe driving, texting and driving, safety and dating, smoking, alcohol and drugs, proper sleep, as well as other topics.
  • General Overall Health Assessment: We want to know everything about dietary history, exercise history, sleep history and any other concerns parents may have.
  • Current Immunizations:
    • By age 4 or 5, children will receive the last boosters for:
      • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
      • Chicken pox (varicella)
      • DTAP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough)
      • Polio
    • By age 11:
      • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis that covers older children and adults)
      • Meningococcal, which covers four types of meningitis
      • HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papillomavirus, with a parent’s approval. Depending on the age of the child, he or she will receive two or three doses over a prescribed amount of time.
    • By ages 16 to 18:
      • Meningococcal: A meningococcal vaccine that covers Group B is available and is important for students entering a college dorm setting or boarding school.

How Can You Help Your Pediatrician?

  • Fill out the parent section of forms prior to the appointment.
  • Write down any questions or concerns before the appointment so you are sure to remember them during the appointment.