back to school annual wellness exam
Health

Back to School Yearly Wellness Exams

The new school year is just around the corner which means it’s time for your kid to visit their pediatrician for a wellness exam. If they plan on participating in a sport, you can have their sports physical done at the same time, which is often why parents schedule wellness exams this time of year.

Why?

Yearly wellness exams are important for establishing a baseline of health and a continuum of care. Pediatricians who see the same patient regularly are better able to spot issues and irregularities.  Parents (and children) who see the same pediatrician are also more likely to trust them and bring up sensitive issues they may need advice on. If you’re really lucky and don’t get sick, it’s the only time you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician this year! 

What to ask about?

Pediatrics is a multifaceted specialty that encompasses children’s physical, psychosocial, developmental, and mental health. Take this wellness exam as an opportunity to ask them questions about your kiddo, and what to expect of their development in the coming months. Pediatricians can be a great resource, and on the off-chance they don’t have the time or experience, I’m sure they’ll be able to refer you to specialists. Think on your child’s behavior, eating and sleeping habits, etc. and bring your questions with you to this visit. 

Also, ask the doctor’s office for a copy of your child’s vaccinations- your school will probably want to see them.

What to expect: Wellness Exam

Here are some things you can expect the pediatrician to measure, inquire about, and/or track:

  • Blood pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Head circumference
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Eye Exam
  • Hearing test
  • Immunizations
  • Appetite
  • Communication skills
  • Living environment
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep patterns
  • Social and emotional development
  • Behavioral health

Dr. Tanya R. Altmann, MD, a pediatrician who contributed to an article on sharecare.com says it’s important to focus on more than just listening with a stethoscope. 

Preschoolers are at a fun age because they learn new things every day. I focus on speech and social skills… For Kindergarten I want to see if a child can sit, listen and follow directions. I ask them if they know any letters and if they can spell and write their name.

I ask elementary school children (and parents) how they are doing in school, what they like to do after school and what makes them happy and sad. Discussing Internet safety is especially important. I encourage all families to limit screen time to no more than 1 hour per school day and set an electronic curfew, which means all media gets turned off at a specific time, usually an hour or two before bedtime. 

For middle school…There’s often peer pressure so we talk about making good choices, not always what your friends may want to do… and again media safety including internet and cell phone use.

What about Immunizations?

Your pediatrician or general practitioner will also take this opportunity to make sure your kiddo is up-to-date on their vaccinations and boosters. The CDC has put together this lovely vaccination timeline infographic that will help you anticipate which vaccinations your child will need. 

Until what age should my child visit their pediatrician?

An annual wellness exam is recommended for everyone, regardless of age. However, we do not often continue to see our pediatricians into adulthood.  So, at what age should your child transition from seeing their pediatrician to a general practitioner? The US Department of Health states adolescence goes until 21 years of age. That being said, have this conversation with your pediatrician.  Your child may want to transition to a general practitioner earlier or later, depending on their needs. You may want to start looking for a general practitioner before you want to transition, to be sure you find one you like. 

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With love,

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