July is here already, so before you know it, our kids will be headed back to school. Why am I bringing this somber fact up on July 1st, in the very heart of summer? Because part of back-to-school preparation is that doctor check up, complete with the mountain of forms your child’s school has sent you. Whether your baby is starting pre-K or headed off to graduate school, our educational institutions rightly want to protect their students’ health, including reducing the spread of preventable, communicable diseases with vaccinations. Prioritize calling your family doctor RIGHT NOW and get your kids appointments on your calendar (and your doctor’s) before camps, family vacations and other summer fun fills every day.
Many people have asked me why we “make” kids to come in to fill out these school forms, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain. First of all, kids GROW. Yes, I know this is not news to you, but when the last time we saw your pre-teen or tween was 6 months ago, before his growth spurt, if we use his height and weight from that visit, we’ll be off by a couple inches and a dozen pounds. Additionally, with the childhood obesity epidemic we are facing, these vital signs become even more important. I’d much rather talk to “Jessica” about food choices when she is a few pounds overweight, than waiting a year or more and then face telling a teenage girl she is 20 lbs overweight.
This “annual” exam is a wonderful window of opportunity for your physician to talk to your adolescent about all kinds of preventative issues- from helmets and limiting screen time, to diet & exercise, to dating & driving risks. Often kids “hear” their doctor’s words as significant information, despite the fact that their parent has preached the same speech to deaf ears. Feel free to give your family doctor a heads up if you have concerns about your child’s behavioral, dietary, or peer choices so we can better direct our discussions.
Finally, be aware that our immunization schedules are always changing. For example, HPV vaccinations are now recommended for all boys and girls at age 11-12. “7th grade” vaccinations have included the meningitis vaccine, and the booster shots for chicken pox and tetanus for several years now, but current recommendations today also include a BOOSTER Meningitis vaccine for all college students up through age 21, that must be given on or after the child’s 16th birthday.
BOTTOM LINE: Back to school preparation INCLUDES a doctor’s visit for your child (unless she’s recently had a checkup). Sign up now and don’t forget to bring those school & sport forms to the appointment!