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Back to school in tip-top shape

July 8, 2021

NCH Medical Group Family Practitioner, Mukesh Kumar, M.D.

Going back to school in person this fall will feel different to most students who spent the pandemic learning over Zoom on their computers from home. The simple social interaction with teammates, friends made in clubs outside the classroom and positive adult role models like teachers and coaches will most certainly benefit students from elementary school to college.

It’s always important that students start the school year strong with a clean bill of health. If you haven’t scheduled your child’s school physical, it’s important to do so very soon.

NCH Medical Group Family Practitioner, Mukesh Kumar, M.D., sees patients of all ages at the conveniently located office on the campus of Harper College in Palatine. Dr. Kumar answered common questions about school physicals.

Q: Who needs a school physical?

Dr. Kumar: Every child who is going to daycare, preschool or school needs a school physical. School physicals are important to ensure children are growing well both physically and mentally. The state of Illinois requires school physicals for all children entering a public, private or parochial school for the following grade levels for the first time: pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 6 and 9.

Q: Is there a difference between a sports physical and a school physical?

Dr. Kumar: A sports physical is different than the school physical. It reviews your child’s current health status and medical history to ensure that your child is healthy enough to play his or her sport. During sports physicals, we review preexisting injuries and evaluate your child’s current fitness level to determine that there is no risk to your child playing a sport.

Q: Have you learned of any local schools requiring the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Kumar: So far I haven’t heard that any local elementary or high school has made the COVID vaccine mandatory. However, some colleges and universities have set that expectation for in person learning. Make sure to check your school’s requirements.

Q: What vaccines are required for school children and at what age?

Dr. Kumar: Usual vaccination recommendations are:

Kindergarten: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. Sixth grade: tetanus booster, diphtheria booster and pertussis booster; Menactra meningitis; Gardasil-human papilloma (HPV, the virus that can cause cervical cancer later in life). Ninth grade: Menactra-meningitis booster given at age 16-18. Please check with your college or university for their specific requirements.

Q: What about face masks? Do children need to wear them?

Dr. Kumar: I’m sure different schools will have differing requirements on masks, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the continued use of a well-fitting face mask for children and teens who are age 2 years and older and not yet fully vaccinated.

Q: How do parents know to keep their child home from school when they are not feeling well?

Dr. Kumar: Don’t send a child to school who has a fever, is nauseated or vomiting, or has diarrhea, loss of appetite, are clingy or lethargic, complain of pain, are drooling with mouth sores, or who just don’t seem like themselves.

Q: Please share anything you’d like parents to know before they bring their child in for a school physical.

Dr. Kumar: It would be helpful if you could explain to your child exactly what’s going to happen at the physical, so they’re not left to their own imagination. Encourage your child to discuss any concerns they may have. Make a list of concerns you want to discuss. Bring updated vaccination records (if you are seeing a new doctor).

Dr. Kumar and his partner, Courtney Snyder, D.O., are accepting new patients at their office in Palatine on Harper College’s campus. You can call 847-618-0121 for an appointment.