How important are routing physicals?
Physicals are extremely important in the growth of a healthy child. Most kids should have a complete physical around the age of 4 to 5, as well as their vision and hearing checked. It is routine to take a urine test and a blood test to check for anemia and lead exposure. At this age, they will also receive any necessary vaccines. At age 11, children need another complete physical and will also need vaccines including Tdap for Meningitis and the HPV series of vaccines. The HPV vaccine is a 3-shot series that protects from the Human Papilloma virus which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. At 16 years, teens need another complete physical and a second Meningitis vaccine.
The above ages are known by most parents due to school requirements; however, it is still important to have well-checkups for any child less than 18 years of age. These should be done every 1-2 years. Often visual or hearing problems as well as problems in school such as ADD/ADHD can be discovered at these visits. These exams are best done by your child’s pediatrician—the one who knows your child’s health best. While the convenience of after-hours clinics does appeal to some busy parents, your child’s health is best followed by his/her primary care physician.
My child had a sports physical at school. Should he/she still see the pediatrician?
Sports physicals are a more intense physical and should be done on any student athlete 11 years of age or older. It has become a popular practice to “get the form filled out” at school, but the gym is not the place for the best exam, and it limits the privacy needed to talk to the other student about family history and problems. Family history is equally important to the complete physical, and at least part of that history is on file with your child’s pediatrician. Keep in mind also that often these fast physicals do not offer vaccinations that many kids need.
It should be noted that if your child has a problem like high blood pressure, for example, his or her pediatrician will be the “quarterback” who handles the care for that problem and will need to see that child before being cleared for sports. The well-child exam and sports physical can be done at the same time, so let your child’s doctor know if both are needed.
A wonderful resource and a great compliment to the complete physical that we have available here in the Baton Rouge area is an initiative by the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation called Save-A-Heart. It is a FREE service to have all High School Student Athletes screened for life threatening cardiac conditions before they participate in sports. Considering there were 22 deaths of student athletes in 2011 from cardiac related problems in Louisiana and that 4000 children yearly are born with heart problems we are fortunate to have this resource available to our student athletes. Schools or parents looking to arrange screenings can contact Kelee King at Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation, at 225-768-2590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.