Back-to-School Physicals

The most important thing you can do as a parent for your child’s development and overall wellness is to absolutely make sure they have a complete physical and medical history update every single year. And there is no better time of year to do this then before they begin the school year.

The list of what they need continues to grow as they get older. However, the most important thing on this list is the yearly school physical, no matter what their grade or age. Back-to-school physical definitely needs to be the first thing on your list.

Kids from pre-school through high school absolutely need to have annual physicals: everything from visits to the pediatrician or the primary family care physician to the dentist, and for their annual eye exams. There are five main things to know about these back-to-school physicals.


Schools require that kids have certain immunizations before they can attend. Most vaccinations are given before kids turn two but school-aged children can expect booster shots during their annual visit. 

Doctors recommend the following immunizations:

  • Hepatitis B vaccine (HBV)
  • Hepatitis A (HAV)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)
  • DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria (Hib)
  • Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV)
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • MCV4 (meningitis)
  • Rotavirus
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV), and influenza and sometimes more.

Some immunizations may cause discomfort, pain or fever so be ready with Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, with your doctor’s approval, of course.

Behavioral Development

A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body; therefore doctors take time during a child’s annual back-to-school physical to assess their behavioral and intellectual development. Your physician may ask you and your child questions to evaluate self-esteem, ask about grades and schoolwork, and how your child copes with anger and disappointment. You may be asked if there are any changes at home that may affect your child’s behavior.

Motor and language skills should also be assessed, and teens may be screened for depression, drug abuse and asked about sexual activity. Parents are encouraged to always be comfortable asking for time alone with the doctor for any additional questions or to address other concerns they may have concerning their children.

Preventative Screening

Annual wellness visits give our doctors the opportunity to check kids for illnesses and chronic diseases in early childhood when they may be easier to treat or even be prevented. Physicians can then monitor your child’s overall wellness more easily with routine examinations and tests including blood tests to screen for such problems as high cholesterol levels, diabetes and lead poisoning. They might also do skin tests for things such as tuberculosis.

Preventative screening appointments are also a good time for you and your child to talk to your physician about safety. Depending on your child’s age, that may mean everything from bicycle helmet safety to concerns about alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and sexual activity.

Medical History

Reviewing your child’s and your family’s medical history with our doctors during a back-to-school physical (or any other time for that matter) is important for detecting patterns of disease and chronic illness that run in your family.

During this part of the visit, doctors, patient and parents, (depending on your child’s age) will talk about current medical conditions such as allergies (bee stings to food allergies) and illnesses (such as asthma, diabetes, etc). Parents should make sure to reveal any hospitalizations, surgeries or prior injuries, and what serious illnesses family members have or have had (such as cancer and heart disease).

You should also go to your appointment prepared by having a list of medications your child takes, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, (even baby aspirin) and supplements. Know dosages and include these when completing your paperwork.

Routine Physical

The physical exams will vary from age to age and from doctor to doctor (and sometimes even based on your health insurance plan) but the basics of a back-to-school physical start with the routine exam based on guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Doctors take this opportunity to do a comprehensive check of your child’s body. This usually includes recording height and weight, taking blood pressure and pulse readings, and checking heart and lungs, abdomen, as well as skin, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth and throat.

Additionally, doctors will also screen for scoliosis, hernia and overall level of physical maturity. Reflexes, fine-motor development (such as tying shoes) and gross-motor development (such as jumping) is often checked as well.

Source: Medical Access MD

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