Time for kids’ back-to-school check-ups and vaccinations

The new school year is almost here, so it’s time to get your pens, pencils and backpacks — and a yearly physical. Dr. Jennifer Clair, a physician with Total Family Care, said it’s the perfect time for kids to have their annual check-up. 

What is a back-to-school physical?

Back-to-school physicals typically look at your child’s growth, height, weight and body mass index, whether they’re up to date on their vaccinations and more, Clair said.

“We will also do an overall wellness check to make sure there are no unrecognized health issues that may cause a problem and vision checks to ensure they are seeing well,” she said. “If your child is playing a sport this coming year, the sports physical is a little more in-depth and covers screening to identify any underlying health concerns that may make it more difficult to compete in sports.”

Clair said yearly physicals are typically quick and

noninvasive. After paperwork, examination and vaccine checks, the appointment takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

“These visits are fairly simple and important for evaluating your child’s health,” she said. “A yearly check-up is important, but also be mindful of your children’s health while at home. Be alert for signs of changes to health or activity level and loss of interest in usual activities that may be the result of illness.”

It may be helpful to go over your child’s vaccine history at your annual visit. The state vaccine registry can show your primary care provider which vaccines your child has had and when they received them, even if it was at a different health care provider. 

“The registry will show us anywhere in Kansas you have had a vaccine,” Clair explained. “Even if you have out-of-state records, we can enter those in so that you can conveniently see your past vaccinations at any visit or call to have a list sent to you.”

If you’re specifically coming in for a sports physical, Clair said you need to bring a sports physical form with you. This form can be found on your school’s website and gives the doctor the information they need to sign off on.

“With the form, we can take care of the sports physical and yearly check-up all at once. If a health issue is detected, it does not mean 100% of the time that the student cannot compete,” Clair said. “If there is an orthopedic issue that has not been fully resolved, we may be able to clear the student but emphasize the limitations or alternatives. If it is a cardiac condition, it may be more serious. Regardless, we will send them to another specialist for further evaluation.”

Vaccine requirements

Tina Sarber, a pharmacist at LMH Health, said there are no new vaccine requirements for kids going back to school this year. However, it is important to stay up to date on your child’s vaccine schedule. 

“When kids start kindergarten between 4 and 6 years of age, they will be required to get booster doses of previous vaccines,” she said. “These additional boosters will be for tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella and chicken pox.”

The next set of vaccine requirements starts between grades 6 and 7, or ages 11 and 12. At this age, children get the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningococcal disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningococcal disease can be a serious or even fatal condition involving the bloodstream or the lining of the brain and spinal cord, which is why this vaccine is important. Additionally, at this age, children should get a tetanus booster.

“There is also the option for the HPV vaccine, which can protect against cervical cancer,” Sarber said. “This vaccine is available for both girls and boys. If you choose to start the vaccine between ages 11 and 12, only two shots are required. After the age of 13, it goes up to three shots.”

After this last series of vaccinations, there are no further requirements until 10 years later, which will be another tetanus booster.

“Parents will sometimes worry that their child is receiving too many vaccines all at one time,” Sarber said. “Though it is perfectly safe to receive all the needed vaccines mentioned at one time, we completely understand wanting to space them out. If this is the case, we encourage you to talk with your child’s primary care provider to ask questions about delaying and spacing them out. You can come back a few different times to complete them, or have them given all at once.”

Sarber said she and her family just entered the next round of vaccines for their children, so she understands that different families have different preferences. She said the age of your children may affect how you want to get your vaccines. For ages 4 to 6, she encouraged families to get their kids’ vaccines at their annual checkups, but she said that older kids can easily get their vaccines at any local pharmacy instead.

— Autumn Bishop is the marketing manager and content specialist for LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Journal-World’s Health section.


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