With SMH Executive Director of Ambulatory Services Jen Storch, FACHE
As school starts up, parents are already in overdrive.
Between running around town looking for school supplies and new clothes, re-arranging schedules for afterschool athletics, play rehearsals and school clubs, and all the other teacher meetings and parent conferences that make up the back-to-school madness, it can be all-too-easy to let the yearly check-up slip out of sight and out of mind.
“An annual physical is one of the best things you can do for your child’s health and wellbeing,” says Jen Storch, executive director of ambulatory services for Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. “This is where your child’s growth and development will be assessed, and they will be screened for future diseases.”
Here are five important reasons to always remember to schedule a yearly physical for your little one.
1) Check for Changes - One of the primary reasons a yearly physical is important, is that it builds a sort of medical history and establishes a baseline or “normal” for your child. Then, each year, the physician can assess any changes that have occurred and if they are cause for concern or the course of healthy development. The yearly physical also provides the opportunity to re-evaluate and update any medications or treatments, and give the school nurse the most up-to-date information.
A Sense of Trust
Yearly physicals, especially with the same physician, also helps build a feeling of teamwork and mutual trust between your child and their doctor, which can be crucial to providing and accepting quality healthcare.
2) Vision and Hearing – If your child is going to get the most from their classes, they will have to be able to hear the teacher and see what they’re doing. A yearly physical should include vision and hearing tests, to discover any problems and find the proper solutions.
3) Immunizations – Children have a handful of immunizations that are important for their own wellbeing and to protect the health of those around them. Many of them are required by Florida law, before a child can attend childcare and school. It’s important to stay on top of these, and a yearly physical is the best way to keep track or catch up.
4) Cleared For Play – For many students, a big part of the excitement of returning to school is the return to the basketball court, the football field or the baseball diamond. But school-based athletics can be demanding on the body, and it’s crucial that your child is first seen by a physician to determine if they’re healthy enough to play. Most school sports require evidence of a doctor’s check-up to play, but even more casual athletics can strain an undiagnosed heart condition, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and get that physical.
Write It Down
Visiting the doctor can be an intimidating and distracting experience, and it can be surprisingly easy to forget all the reasons you came. It can help to write down your questions beforehand, so you can consult it as you go and not leave frustrated.
This is your time with the doctor and you should feel free to ask all of your questions.
The Urgent Care Centers follow the American Heart Association’s 14-point evaluation for cardiovascular screening. This gold-standard screening ensures your child is fit for all types of physical activity.
5) A Time For Questions – Perhaps most important, a yearly check-up gives you and your child face-to-face time with an expert who can answer your questions. This can include questions about diet and exercise, questions about drugs and alcohol use, discussions about puberty and a changing body or even questions about sexual health. And even if your child doesn’t have questions of their own, it’s a good opportunity for parent and physician to go over some of the basics for them or just reiterate some of the important points for older children.
Pro Tip: As your child gets older and enters their teenage years, it can be helpful—and even advised—to give them a few minutes of time alone with their doctor, where they can ask questions and have conversations that they might not be comfortable having in front of their parents.
In addition to the hands-on physical examination, physicals will often include discussions on sleep, nutrition, home-life and social relationships.
What Should I Bring To My Child’s Physical?
First off, you will need to bring the child. (A picture, Zoom call or eerily lifelike doll will not suffice.)
Once that has been accomplished, be sure to bring:
Don't Have A Doctor?
If your child does not have a pediatrician or family medicine doctor, you can also take them to one of Sarasota Memorial’s many Urgent Care Centers for their physical and check-up. But it is recommended that care is established with a pediatrician or family medicine doctor.
- Your child’s medication list (including over-the-counter medication, vitamins and supplements)
- Any updates to the family medical history
- Insurance information
- Any forms the school may require
- Vaccine record (if vaccines previously administered at a different provider)
Find Your Physician
An important part of the process is finding the doctor that’s right for you. Find yours at FPG Pediatrics and FPG Family Medicine.
Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky, and talks to hamsters in German.