Health Tips Tuesday: back-to-school checkups for your kids

Baystate Chief of General Pediatrics Dr. John O’Reilly spoke to Western Mass News about the importance of your child receiving a wellness checkup.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 9:18 AM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) - With the new school year just around the corner, Baystate Chief of General Pediatrics Dr. John O’Reilly spoke to Western Mass News about the importance of your child receiving a wellness checkup.

How important is it for your child to receive a wellness checkup beforehand?

O’Reilly: “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children have a yearly physical examination. If your child has not had a physical exam in the last year, getting one before school is a great way to be sure that all medical issues are addressed and that your child is ready to succeed in school. There are many conditions that can impact whether or not your child will succeed in school and it is during one of these wellness checkups that the pediatrician will screen for any potential problems.”

“Getting a wellness checkup before a student starts their athletic season is particularly important. The pediatrician will ask questions that focus on any health risk the student athlete might face during her season. Any concerns about breathing issues or chest pain or musculoskeletal issues will be important to discuss. Pediatricians will also review how the student is preparing for their season, whether that is in terms of healthy eating, stretching, or their exercise program. The preparticipation physical exam will focus on the range of issues to make sure your child is ready to succeed at their sport.”

What does a wellness visit entail?

O’Reilly: “At a wellness check, pediatricians take a holistic look at all aspects of your child’s life. Pediatricians will be sure that your child can see and hear the teacher well. They check to see if any chronic medical conditions such as allergies, asthma, or diabetes might impact your child’s ability to focus and succeed. Your pediatrician will ask about your child’s sleep patterns because getting enough sleep is necessary for your child’s brain to function effectively. Your pediatrician will also screen for emotional conditions, such as anxiety and depression which may keep your child from performing well in school. Your pediatrician will screen for developmental delays or attention problems that could impact academic success. They will review your child’s growth and nutrition, since an unhealthy diet may impact learning. They will review social media use and screen time. Your pediatrician will do a head to toe exam looking for any physical abnormalities that might impact your child’s ability to succeed academically.”

Should you schedule a wellness visit every year?

O’Reilly: “Children under two require more frequent visits in order to get all their vaccines and developmental screenings done. From age three to 21 years old, your child should have a wellness visit every year. Pediatricians are trained to focus on developmental and emotional issues that have been at each age group to be sure that your child is growing and developing normally.”

What are some questions to prepare for your doctor?

O’Reilly: “Pediatricians may be experts on childhood health, but each parent is the expert about their individual child. The most important questions to address and a well-child exam of the questions and concerns that the parent has about their child’s health and wellbeing. Pediatricians will be asking a wide range of questions to get a holistic view of your child.”

“Parents often have questions and concerns about the nutritional value of what you are eating about whether their child weighs too much or too little, or about any behaviors around food or eating. Parents often have questions about sleeping. Teenagers are notorious for being night owl’s as their circadian rhythm shifts and parents are often struggling about how to get their teenagers adequate amounts of sleep.”

“Parents often have questions about their child’s emotional health. For many children, the return to school can be stressful and anxiety producing and parents are only interested in talking about how they can help their child with any behavioral issues: from preschool resenting to kindergarten to high school students and teen behaviors.”

“Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs out there and it has been particularly stressful during the pandemic. Pediatricians often talk to parents about different parenting strategies that may help with their particular child.”