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Tips on getting the correct immunizations and medical examinations before your kids return to school

A diverse grouping of eight elementary school students wearing backpacks gather for a smiling photo outside their classroom.

Tips on getting the correct immunizations and medical examinations before your kids return to school

Getting ready to send your children back to school can be a frantic time for any parent or caregiver. There are endless lists of school supplies, new clothes and shoes to find.

But also on your list should be a well-child exam to check for any changes in your child’s health, nutritional and exercise needs. This is also a great time to have a physician certify your child’s fitness for school and sports.


Childhood immunizations are an important part of your youngster’s care. Not only do these vaccines prevent your child from getting a potentially serious illness, but they also go a long way toward eradicating diseases.

A good example is the dramatically decreased incidence of polio. This once-common childhood illness is now very rare. Vaccines are typically safe for children, and most often the risk of potential side effects is significantly outweighed by the benefits the vaccine provides. Standard childhood vaccines include:

  • DTaP, a booster for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
  • IPV, a polio vaccine that has replaced the previous oral method
  • MMR, for measles, mumps and rubella

I recommend that children receive these vaccinations before kindergarten. There is a new recommendation for a second chickenpox booster for children who only had a single dose.

For children aged 10 to 18, I recommend a tetanus booster, a meningitis vaccine and a new vaccine for young girls that prevents two common types of cervical cancer.

For detailed information on each of these vaccines, talk to your child’s pediatrician.

Annual medical examinations

Many schools require that children receive a full examination each year, or at least every two years, prior to starting school or sports. This is a great chance to talk to your pediatrician about any health changes your child may be experiencing and an opportunity to have your child screened for asthma, juvenile diabetes, anemia, scoliosis and other illnesses.

Based on your family and child’s medical history, a physician can also identify and screen for specific health risks unique to your child.

An exam with a pediatrician can help ward off sport related injuries as well. Your child’s doctor can recommend some stretches or exercises to increase your child’s fitness and flexibility. A physician’s approval is often required for any child who participates in sports.

Considerations for nutrition

Many parents are concerned about their child’s nutrition and hydration. As any parent knows, kids can be picky eaters and getting them to eat anything at all can be a challenge.

Healthy meals are the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and can energize your child throughout the day. One thing I suggest is letting children help prepare their meals when they are old enough. Most kids will happily eat something they helped to make.

Ask for your child’s preference when packing their lunch to help eliminate lunch time trading. Cutting healthy sandwiches into shapes can make them more appealing, and creating interesting and healthy snacks can make food more fun for kids. I recommend children eat plenty of fruits, veggies and lean protein, as well as drink plenty of water or other non-sugary drinks.

If your child is not eating what you think they should, look at what they are eating. Most children in early school age only gain four to six pounds a year.

If they aren’t eating healthy, they may be filling up on juice, milk or snacks. It doesn’t take much to suppress a young child’s appetite, so limit liquids to two or three small cups of milk per day — or just a couple of small, healthy snacks.

Sleep and the school schedule

Once children start school, naps often become a thing of the past. As a result, children need more sleep at night, around eight to ten hours.

Kids are afraid of missing out on activities and therefore can be very resistant to heading off to bed, but a sleep routine is essential to help them stay rested.Sugary snacks before bed can really bring up their energy levels and interrupt good sleep habits.

Children’s bodies are still growing, and as a result they need more sleep than adults. Sometimes children who are sleep deprived may act out and appear to have an attention disorder. Often all they need is more sleep.