Ask The Doc - Back-to-School Physicals

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dr. Adam King, Internal Medicine and PediatricsQuestion: What do I need to do before my child goes back to school?

By Dr. Adam King, MD, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Columbia St. Mary’s Grafton Medical Center

It's hard to believe it’s already that time again, when the days get shorter, the tomatoes grow redder and the Packers start their preseason games. Back to school!

Among the many things we need to get ready for school, pencils, protractors and physician physicals are a must to prepare your child for success. While I cannot help you shop, I can help you be a better consumer when it comes to your child’s physicals. As a pediatrician, I commonly get asked the following questions by friends and family. Knowing the answers in advance should help you come better prepared to your child's wellness visit.

How Often: Ideally after the age of 2, your child should be seen every year by a physician. Years 3, 4 and 5 are critical! Then from ages 6-11, I highly recommend them being seen yearly. That said, missing a year or taking a longer break between visits is okay as long as school, behavior and growth are normal. Then come the teenage years. With so many things changing, a yearly physical is beneficial to discuss not only the rapid physical changes happening, but it also gives a physician a chance to screen for depression as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

Goals of the Visit: Wellness visits are intended to evaluate overall wellness. We collect medical, social and family history as well as make sure your child is healthy. I usually ask my patients at the beginning of the visit if there are any large concerns they want to be sure to address. If topics do come up, there may be some time to address a last minute concern, but bigger topics brought up late in the visit may require a another appointment.

Sports vs. Non-Sports Physicals: In short, there really is no substantial difference. The topics covered and the evaluations are essentially the same. However, a card of some sort is typically required by schools or athletic clubs. Failing to bring the card to the visit takes extra time for everybody, and if further medical concerns arise an extra visit may be needed. So, ask your coaches if an athletic physical clearance card is needed prior to your visit.

Talk to Grandma: Knowing your family's history is important, knowing their medical history is even more important. Make sure you come prepared knowing the health history of mom, dad and both sets of grandparents. If someone has died, know the cause of death and the age they died.  Furthermore, if anyone in the family died young or of sudden causes, make sure you know their age at death, likely medical cause and if anyone else in the family has ever been diagnosed with something similar. It may seem morbid to know all these details, but this information can give your doctor big clues on your child's health.

Head Injuries: Knowing if your child has had a concussion, been knocked-out or sustained a head injury that changed the way they were acting is very important. Ideally if you know date of injury and how long it affected your child, we can help better understand if future head injuries might cause further damage.

When to Make an Appointment: The busiest times to get in for sports physicals are at the starts of the three major sports seasons: August, November and March. Therefore, book an appointment months in advance to secure enough time for a thorough evaluation. When it comes to your child’s health, plan ahead and be prepared for the visit.

Dr. Adam King is an Internist and Pediatrician at Columbia St. Mary’s Grafton Medical Center. For more information, call 262-376-1934.

This article appeared in the August 14 issue of The Ozaukee News Graphic.   



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