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Back-to-School Physicals: What to Expect

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Melissa Angulo
Stacy Laurent, DO
Pediatric Primary Care

The new school year will be here before you know it. And for most families that means making sure all of the items on their child's back-to-school list are checked off before their first day of school. One of the most important items on that list are school and sports physicals.

School physicals are mandatory for many children. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) requires physicals for all students entering preschool, kindergarten, 6th grade, and 9th grade and for any students entering CPS for the first time. However, more than just being a requirement, routine physicals also help make sure your child is safe, healthy, and ready for school, sports, and any other extracurricular activities.

"Pediatricians regularly recommend children receive an annual physical because they focus on preventative care," says Dr. Stacy Laurent, a primary care pediatrician at UI Health. "A provider may find a health issue by reviewing the child's medical history or by performing an exam. Identifying issues related to hearing, sight, learning disabilities, or behavioral problems early can help both the child and family know how to manage it before it causes a true problem." 

The doctor may complete the following during school/sports physicals:

  • Review medical history.
  • Measure height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse.
  • Check eyes, ears, nose, throat, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, and abdominal area for any irregularities.
  • Evaluate your child's neck, spine, shoulders, arms, wrists, elbows, knees, legs, and feet.
  • Confirm all immunizations are up to date.
  • Ask you and your child about any concerns you may have about their well-being.
  • Review medical history.
  • Measure height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse.
  • Check eyes, ears, nose, throat, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, and abdominal area for any irregularities.
  • Evaluate your child's neck, spine, shoulders, arms, wrists, elbows, knees, legs, and feet.
  • Confirm all immunizations are up to date.
  • Ask you and your child about any concerns you may have about their well-being.

Since physicals are longer than sick-visit appointments, it is best to get your child's physical scheduled and done early. The month before school starts is one of the busiest times for pediatric clinics - if you wait too long, if may be hard to find an appointment that works for you and your family's busy schedule.

"As a primary care provider and mother of three, I know how difficult it can be to organize for each child to be seen once a year, and the annual visit covers a lot of topics and tests. However, it's important that we go over key factors for staying healthy with you and your child," Laurent says. 

If you are a parent of child who has never had a physical before, we recommend doing the following to help prepare them for their first one:

  • Talk to them about what will happen during the physical to help them feel comfortable.
  • Bring your family medical history and immunization record to share with the provider.  
  • Bring an up-to-date list of medications they take.  
  • Bring up any changes in your child's health that you've noticed since their last checkup

"In case the doctor requires lab work or other medical tests before signing the physical exam form, it is best to get your child's physical done as soon as possible," Laurent says. "That ensures there is enough time to complete any additional testing and still have time to get paperwork done before the start of school."

Pediatrics at UI Health offers convenient evening and weekend hours to help you make appointments that fit your schedule. Schedule a back-to-school physical today.