Back to School: What can parents do to support their child’s health this school year?

Written By: Marissa Gomez-Martinez, MD, FAAFP
Medical Director
DHR Health- Edinburg CISD School Based Health Center

Summertime is a good opportunity to take care of your family’s healthcare needs. With school starting, it is important to make sure your child is ready from all health aspects. All school children should get a yearly wellness exam. This is a screening physical that focuses on health maintenance and prevention. Your medical provider will discuss growth and development and address any screenings that should be carried out based on age and risk factors. It is also the time to get up to date on childhood vaccines. Children are required to get vaccinated against several preventable diseases. The most important ages to focus on vaccines for school-aged children are 4, 11-12, and 16 years. These are the ages when some required vaccines are due and will thus affect their entrance into school and college. It is a good idea to take your child’s vaccine record to the wellness exam so your healthcare provider can review and update it.

The wellness exam is different from a sports physical, which is required yearly for athletics or marching band. During a sports physical, the provider focuses on making sure students are able to safely participate in the sport or activity of their choice. This exam targets injury prevention and screening for any pre-existing or undiagnosed health concerns that can be a potential risk for the student. It is so important to get this done timely because, oftentimes, students do not pass and may need further evaluation to be given a clearance for participation. This could require referrals to specialists, which take time to complete. Please do not wait until the first week of school or just before the sport/activity starts to get this physical. You will likely experience long waits and possible delays in getting a clearance, resulting in delays in participation.

Other screening exams to complete include vision and dental exams. With the increase in screen time, there has been an increase in undiagnosed vision issues, which can impact learning. The vision exam can also screen for early signs of diabetes and other eye conditions. Dental exams are important to prevent cavities and tooth decay, which can lead to pain and other medical issues.

It is important to keep up with your child’s full-body health. Summer is a good time to take care of these healthcare needs so as to not interfere with the school year and to have time to address any issues that require further evaluation. During this pandemic, many have not kept up with routine health visits. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider and find out if your child needs a visit.