Checklist: What to Ask at Your Child's School Physical
Katherine Maietta, MD Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
Summer is in full swing, but already parents are preparing for kids to go back to school. That means taking children for an annual physical, if they haven’t had one.
Your child’s annual checkup is more than a chance to get school and sports forms filled out. This "well-child” exam is an opportunity to protect your child from preventable diseases, check developmental growth and discuss symptoms and other concerns.
Before you take your child to the doctor, remember this list of to-do’s.
- Ask what vaccines your child should get this year and next. States, including Illinois, require children to be vaccinated against several important diseases at different ages, and the physician may recommend additional vaccines.
- If your child is a new patient, request to have medical records from the previous physician sent to the new doctor as soon as you can. These will help your new doctor, and they are needed for immunization records.
- Before the appointment day, pay attention to your child’s eating and sleeping habits. This is important information for the doctor, and it’s easy to draw a blank if you haven’t thought about it or paid attention lately.
- Discuss your child’s free-time activities, such as favorite games, clubs, sports teams and hobbies, and how much time is spent playing video games, watching TV or videos and playing outside.
- If your child needs a school form, sports team release or other form filled out by the doctor, mention this when you schedule the appointment. Most medical offices can electronically generate a standard form, but it’s a good idea to ask whether you need to bring one. Check whether your child’s sports teams and programs require any special medical clearance, beyond the standard school requirements. As children reach high school, their sports teams may request a doctor’s release that requires additional information related to their fitness, such as heart health and bone and joint injuries. Some college and high school athletes may need additional screening, including an echocardiogram. Learn more: Sports physicals too involved for instant clinic visit.
- Don’t leave the doctor’s office without the forms you need. It’s common for a doctor’s office to charge a fee if you request it later in the year.
- If you have concerns about how your child is doing in school or getting along with other children, bring this up. Your pediatrician or family doctor is trained to look for potential causes of academic and social difficulties, such as attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder, depression and other medical conditions. Even how much a child sleeps and what he or she eats could be causing a problem.
- Mention any changes in your child’s life, such as the death of a grandparent or other loved one or close friend, parental separation or divorce, a move to a new home or a parent’s job loss. The doctor will look for signs of how such changes are affecting your child’s health.
Review this CheckupChecklist and take it with you to give your child a thorough and helpful physical.