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Back to school: Send them back in good health

July 8, 2020

Part I of a two-part series on children’s health

Even though it has been one of the strangest years on record, it doesn’t change the fact that July marks back to school sales and planning. At press time, Illinois families are planning to send their children back to the classroom this fall after COVID-19 closed schools and kids finished their school year at home.

We know parents have a lot of questions, so we are publishing a two-part series about children’s healthcare as we prepare for back to school. Today, we are addressing traditional school physicals and in our next issue we’ll address many of those COVID-19 concerns.

NCH Medical Group pediatrician Kristina Mitton, M.D. talked to us about school physicals and answered questions that will help prepare you and your child.

School physicals are required in the state of Illinois for entry into preschool, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades. The exam must be completed within one year of entering school at the required grade. If your child will be entering one of those grades this fall, please call for an appointment now as the summer availability fills quickly. If your child intends to participate in sports when they resume, it’s best to obtain the paperwork from your school district and have it completed at the same time.

In this time of pandemic, parents might be reluctant to bring their healthy child to a healthcare environment. Dr. Mitton explains the preparation NCH Medical Group has taken, “We are taking many precautions in our office to make it as safe as possible for kids to come in for visits.”

This includes:

  • Limiting the amount of people in the office and only one family at a time at check in and in the hallways
  • Masks for all patients over 2 years old and all parents
  • Telehealth appointments when possible
  • Limiting sick visits to the afternoon and separating exam rooms for sick and well patients

Being prepared for the appointment is best for the parent and the child. At a typical school physical we review your child’s medical history including family history, past medical problems, allergies and medications. We also update and refill current medications your child may be taking. Additionally we spend time discussing healthy habits for diet and physical activity, and ask about school performance, social skills and family dynamics. The complete physical exam includes screening for scoliosis, heart murmurs, skin issues and vision. We also touch base on age-appropriate anticipatory guidance including car/car seat safety, bike safety, water safety and digital/cyber safety.

Children ages 4 to 5, 11 and 16 will receive vaccinations. Detailed information about vaccines can be found at cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/adolescent-easyread.html. If your child is concerned about shots, you can call the office ahead of time to find out if they are due for vaccines. It may help them be more comfortable if they know what to expect and can prepare for it.

If your child has developed an anxiety about visiting the doctor, Dr. Mitton shares some ideas on how to prepare them. “Talking to your child ahead of time and letting them know what to expect can help their comfort level in the office. For younger children, I often recommend reading books about going to the doctor to get them prepared. Some examples are Daniel Tiger, Barney or Elmo Goes to the Doctor. The Doc McStuffins TV show can also be helpful with the little ones.”

For all parents, this school year will be different than anything we have experienced. Dr. Mitton says, “We will need to be stricter about keeping kids home for illness. Your child should stay home from school for any cough, congestion, fever, sore throat or vomiting. Calling your pediatrician and scheduling a telehealth appointment can help determine when they can return to school.”

Dr. Mitton sees children and teens at the NCH Medical Group office at 135 North Arlington Heights Road, Suite 152 in Buffalo Grove. Call 847-465-9600 to schedule an appointment.

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