Start the school year right, schedule wellness exams

Rebecca Zimmermann, DO
For The Review

Back-to-school checkups are the only visit some children, especially teens, will have with a health care provider all year long.

These health maintenance exams involve much more than having a provider sign a permission card to meet school or WIAA requirements for organized sports participation.

This exam includes a thorough medical check-up, a review of immunizations and time to talk about any developmental issues that your child may be facing.

A routine check-up will include making sure your child is up-to-date on his or her vaccines. For a complete list of recommended vaccines, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website at You can download the recommended immunization schedule for children ages 7-18.

Older students heading off to college in the fall for the first time should talk to their health care provider about receiving the meningitis vaccine.

Every year there are a number of meningitis cases reported on college campuses and some, unfortunately, result in serious or fatal brain injury.

In addition to monitoring heart health, blood pressure, vision and hearing, an annual exam is an opportunity for the doctor to offer advice and information on important topics such as proper nutrition and exercise.

This has become even more important as our country wrestles with the growing problem of childhood obesity. Children should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

During this exam your provider may also assess your child’s risk for anemia, high cholesterol and other problems, and suggest additional tests, if indicated.

In addition to having health issues addressed, this exam is an opportunity for doctors to talk with adolescents and teens about making healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, avoiding drugs and alcohol and always wearing seat belts.

We may ask specific questions to screen teens for depression and risk of suicide.

Developing a long-term relationship with a child gives the physician greater awareness of a young adult’s development by understanding his or her medical and family history.

This background information helps us detect any new problems that may be emerging.

Children, especially teens, should be reassured that anything they discuss with their doctor will be kept confidential, unless their health (or the health of others) could be in danger.

Parents can also receive health guidance from their child’s doctor during these routine check-ups and discuss any concerns they may have.

As parents we routinely do many things to help keep our kids happy, healthy and safe. Scheduling an annual physical exam can go a long way toward that end.

Addressing any potential physical or emotional issues now can have a positive effect on how well your child performs this school year.

The value of having regular physical exams with a trusted health care provider shouldn’t be underestimated. So, before the rush of back-to-school activities gets into full swing, please consider arranging for a back-to-school exam for your child this year.

Rebecca Zimmermann, DO, is a family practice physician at Aurora Health Center in Plymouth, 2600 Kiley Way.

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