Skip to main content

Mendo Lake Family Life

Open You Mouth and Say, “Ah”

Besides shopping for new clothes, backpacks, and other supplies, parents and students have an even more important item on the back-to-school to-do list: an annual physical exam by your family’s care provider.

Getting an annual physical can help your child stay healthy and ensure a successful school year. Annual physicals allow a physician to stay up to date on a child’s health as he or she grows, and give parents and children a valuable opportunity to ask questions. A routine physical allows you to catch any problems early on and get your child the best early intervention resources available.

For local physician John Glyer, MD, these exams are also a chance to make sure students are generally healthy and don’t have underlying conditions that will affect their performance at school. “We ask a lot of screening questions to help us identify potential health issues, and sometimes we discover conditions that would have never been diagnosed otherwise,” he explains. “Aside from that, we want to ensure that [students] are healthy so we can set them up for success and they have a great experience,” shares Glyer, a family medicine specialist who has been caring for children and adults in the community for more than 30 years.

A back-to-school exam can also provide the perfect opportunity to ensure your child is current on his or her vaccinations. In California, children are required to be vaccinated against diseases ranging from the measles and mumps to chickenpox and tetanus before they can begin classes. While most vaccinations are administered before the age of two, an annual visit to the family doctor ensures your child is up to date and aware of new vaccines that protect against diseases such as meningitis.

Back-to-school physicals also help doctors recognize developing medical issues before they become serious. One example of this is eyesight. According to the American Optometric Association, from ages 6–18 a child’s vision can change frequently or unexpectedly, and this can lead to behavioral and attention issues in the classroom. Common eye problems, which could be easily corrected with glasses or contacts, may result in poor grades and classroom frustration.

As children continue to grow on so many levels, an annual physical exam is also the perfect opportunity to talk about vital changes taking place in their bodies, and for parents to ask questions and make sure they have the support and care they need.

This is especially important for adolescents. As children become teenagers and begin to deal with new social and physical issues, an annual checkup gives them a chance to discuss subjects they may not feel comfortable addressing with parents. These topics include smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases. A doctor’s input on such subjects can serve as a positive and neutral voice that points a child in the right direction.

Maximize Your Office Visit
Make the most out of your child’s back-to-school exam by making a plan. Prior to your visit, write down questions or think about topics you’d like to discuss. Do you have any specific concerns about your child’s development? Make note of any unusual behavior you have noticed in your child. Family doctors have a great deal of experience with children at every stage of development and can shed light on whether behavior is natural or cause for concern. Here are some concerns you may want to think about:
• How well does your child sleep?
• Have your child’s eating habits changed?
• Does your child seem anxious or depressed?
• Has your child reached important developmental milestones on time?
• Has your child experienced any learning difficulties or other classroom problems?

Also remember to bring along any health documents you received from the school. Schools often provide a list of vaccinations and other requirements that students should have. It’s important to discuss this information with your child’s doctor.

Annual exams are much more than a physical exam; they are about your children’s overall health and ensuring they have a great start to the school year. Because when kids feel good inside and out, it shows. Be sure to include physical exams as part of your back-to-school routine every year. 

Courtesy of Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits.