Back-to-school checklists should not only be supplies

With another school year on the horizon, preparing your child for optimal success in the classroom doesn’t just involve shopping for school supplies.

Annual physicals are imperative to ensure that your children stay healthy and maintain good attendance all year long. During a transition period where many significant developmental changes are occurring in your children's lives, taking them to a yearly visit with your family doctor is one of the most important things you can do as a parent - especially when they’re about to share a classroom with other kids.

These visits are often the only time that kids will see a pediatrician all year, and there are a variety of reasons why an annual physical should be at the top of any parent’s back-to-school checklist.

Track growth and development

Recording both the physical and mental development of a child allows the doctor to track milestones like height and weight, assess progress and determine whether or not they are progressing appropriately for their age range.

Discussing and analyzing social and behavioral patterns as well as the child’s emotional well-being, are all vital for discovering areas that may need attention.

This also gives parents the information to communicate to their child’s teacher. In turn, this can help determine learning styles that work best for them and allow the child to make the most out of their time in the classroom.

General health and preventing illness

A yearly physical gives the pediatrician an opportunity to discover and discuss current and potential health problems or sickness.

Through physical examination and testing, problems such as existing injuries, asthma, anemia or cholesterol issues could also be discovered. Being aware of any new issues allows the parent to address them early on, take preventative measures and provide the child with any medical care that they may need.

Additionally, this is a perfect time for the doctor to suggest nutrition and exercise guidelines that keep children in the best health possible.

Immunizations/Vaccines

Arizona law requires that all children must have an up-to-date immunization record to attend public school. From chickenpox to whooping cough, kids are susceptible to many potentially dangerous health conditions.

The pediatrician will review immunization schedules, administer shots and update current records.

Questions and concerns

Pediatricians recommend that parents bring a list of three to five questions or concerns that they may have regarding their child.

Any abnormal social interactions, physical ailments or recurring issues should be addressed during the visit.

If a child is heading into the teenage years, this is also a great opportunity for the doctor to discuss any health and safety tips that you or your child may have as they approach pre-adult age.

One last thing to take into consideration when planning a back-to-school check-up is the benefit of establishing a primary pediatrician.

Having the same doctor throughout the growth and developmental stages allows for better assessment of current health conditions. They will have a thorough understanding of medical history and will be able to establish a stronger level of trust with both the parent and the child.


Dr. Shraddha Patel is a Family Practice Physician at Arrowhead Health Centers. In addition to Primary Care, she takes a special interest in Pediatric Care. A prior winner of the Louis Zeile Outstanding Junior Resident Award, Dr. Patel is fluent in English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Sanskrit.

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