Returning to Routine: A 2021 Back-to-School Health Checklist
With many restrictions from the pandemic behind us, back-to-school preparations for the 2021-2022 year are beginning to feel like a return to routine. Many have missed or delayed important health screenings because of the disruption, so this year’s back-to-school to-dos may call for some extra attention to children’s health. Here are three items to include in a back-to-school checklist:
1. Schedule an annual physical
As children and adolescents grow and mature, they go through a lot of physical, emotional and social change each year. In an annual physical, a pediatrician or family doctor will not only check a child’s physical health, but also will check for developmental milestones and address any behavioral or social concerns.
It’s a good idea to book this appointment now, because doctors’ schedules fill up quickly this time of year. Skipping this appointment may result in a child missing out on crucial wellness and anticipatory guidance.
2. Ask about immunizations
While there’s been much attention surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, children and adolescents may need a few other vaccinations before starting school. In Michigan, students in grades K-12 must receive the recommended vaccines to attend school.
Immunizations are critically important for maintaining herd immunity against harmful and highly contagious illnesses like measles and whooping cough. These two illnesses in particular have seen a re-emergence after decades of near elimination. At the exam, doctors will want to know about any unusual reactions, allergies or sensitivities a child has experienced with any prior immunization.
3. Schedule a sports physical
Children and adolescents who participate in a sports activity or on a school athletic team may need to have a sports physical before they can play. Often, this can be completed during an annual physical.
Even if a sports physical is not required, it’s a good idea for children and adolescents to get one if they are participating in any athletic activities. In a sports physical, the doctor examines the child’s fitness level and assesses any conditions or factors that may increase their risk for injury. Doctors also will evaluate any chronic conditions, such as asthma, and determine strategies to appropriately manage the condition to meet the demands of the physical activity.
Find a Primary Care Provider
Parents who don’t already have a pediatrician or family practitioner can start researching available physicians in their area who suit their child’s health needs. Friends and family members may have recommendations. Parents also should check their health insurance coverage for doctors who are in their plan network. Some parents prefer to meet different candidates ahead of time. Then, when it’s time for the annual physical, they feel comfortable with the physician they have chosen and confident of his or her ability to care for their child or teen.
Explore your choices for care online at bcbsm.com/findcare.
James D. Grant, M.D. is chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
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