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Head Back to School Safely with a Physical Exam

While back-to-school is a time to shop for school supplies and the latest fashions, it also is the perfect time to check in on your child’s health with a physical exam. Children’s and teens’ bodies and minds are constantly changing, so it is important to monitor their growth, health and development to safeguard against potential problems.

RWJ Barnabas Health pediatric specialists share answers to the following common questions related to back-to-school physicals:

  • Are well-visits, physical exams and sports exams the same thing?

Each of these exams is classified as a preventative care visit — they allow the child to be examined using measurements of growth and development. These visits help keep the child healthy and focus on improvements that can be made to enhance the child’s wellness.

  • What can my child expect during a back-to-school visit or well-exam?

During a back-to-school physical, doctors discuss the child’s history and any concerns, ask questions about lifestyle behaviors, check his or her vaccination status and update personal and family medical history. Doctors also will check the child’s vital signs — blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature — and perform heart, lung, abdominal and head and neck exams. They will also monitor the child’s neurological responses, perform a dermatological exam by looking at skin and nails, and check extremities for physical and sensory changes.

  • Why do schools require back-to-school physicals each year?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools often require physicals to ensure students’ vaccinations are up-to-date. These exams also provide an opportunity to monitor a child’s health on a year-to-year basis to ensure he or she is hitting milestone benchmarks.

  • What vaccines are required for school-age children?

New Jersey schools require specific immunizations based on the child’s age. For a full list of vaccinations required for preschool/child care, school and college entry in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Department of Health.

  • Does my child need any other kind of screening?

Cardiac and concussion screenings have the lifesaving potential to reduce heart-related incidents and brain injuries among school-age children and teens. New Jersey requires all school athletes to be examined by their primary care or school physician at least once a year, and free screening programs are available throughout the year at select locations.

The Barnabas Health Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes provides statewide education, evaluation and assessment of sports injury and sports-related cardiac and concussion screenings. For information about upcoming screenings, call 973-322-7913.

For a referral to a Barnabas Health pediatrician, visit us online.