Summer for kids means swimming and staying up late. Summer at a pediatrician’s office means lots of yearly check-ups and pre-participation physicals (also known as sports physicals). A physical is recommended yearly for all kids over the age of 3 and more frequently for children under 3. The State of Missouri also mandates that all high school athletes have an annual physical after Feb. 1, so summer and those first back to school weeks are a natural time to schedule the exam. The urgent care down the street, the retail-based clinic at your local pharmacy and even chiropractors are advertising that they can do them — so why not just go there?
The quality is not the same. A physical is not just a signature on a form. It may be the only time that year that your child sees a physician. A yearly physical with your pediatrician typically includes:
- An update of any immunizations that may be due. The “kindergarten shots” of Dtap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and varicella vaccines are given between 4-6 years of age and required prior to starting school. Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) and meningococcal (meningitis) vaccines are required going into 8th grade and a second dose of the meningococcal vaccine is required going into 12th grade.
- Review of your child’s growth charts. Your pediatrician has the complete background and medical history of your child, which can determine if your child’s growth since the last year is appropriate. Poor growth can be the first sign of a chronic illness.
- Review of your child’s chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or migraines, and refills of medications needed to treat those conditions.
- Evaluation of any abnormalities on exam or concerns that arise during the visit.
- Developmental and emotional screenings, as age-appropriate. This means ensuring your infant and preschooler are meeting milestones. In my office, we also screen all teens for depression at their yearly visits.
- Discussion of health and safety topics that are important for all kids (sleep, limiting screen time, and a balanced diet to name a few). Also, we provide a private and confidential environment for your teen to share any questions or concerns they may have.
A yearly physical with your pediatrician is an invaluable part of your child’s health care, both for their current health and for their future growth and development. Plan now to schedule!