Parents in Action: What to ask pediatrician during back-to-school physicals

As the back-to-school season approaches, parents should be thinking about arranging an annual physical. Many health care outlets advertise cheap and quick physicals but don't be lured by these claims. Their ability to complete a form and basic exam is not the same as seeing a pediatrician.

Firstly, your child's pediatrician will provide continuity in health care with records of growth, immunization, medical history and ongoing care. This kind of care cannot be duplicated by a walk-in clinic. A perfect example is your child's standardized growth curve that their primary physician can immediately analyze based on prior measurements. If your doctor spots a new trend it will alert them to ask questions about nutrition, exercise and other symptoms that may point to a medical condition.

A comprehensive physical will include a review of your child's weight, height, body mass index (BMI) and vital signs, like blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. Their pediatrician will also check their heart, lungs abdomen, eyes, ears, nose and throat. If your child decides to play a sport this year the doctor should also address recent injuries, cardiac issues, concussion history and asthma. In a perfect world, have your child's sports physical about 6-weeks before the start of the activity.

Questions to ask during a physical:

Being engaged and participating in the health care process will allow you to know what's going on and give the doctor the opportunity to explain health care in depth. Before you visit the doctor compile any questions that you may have regarding your kids' health. Here are a few questions to start:

- Is my child's weight within a normal, healthy range?
- What is my child's BMI?
- What vaccinations (if any) does my child need? Why?

If your child plans to play a sport here a few additional questions:
- Is there approved safety equipment I should purchase?
- Should my child get a follow-up exam if they experience a sports injury?

The most important part of your child's health is being involved and having them communicate with you when something doesn't feel right. Remember that doctors are not mind readers so if you think something is wrong, say something.


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