Back to school check up 101

Aug. 23, 2014 @ 08:00 AM

Summertime’s time is up! Before classes start, be sure your child’s health makes the grade.

As a parent, it’s easy to be carried away by the back-to-school whirlwind that blows in this time each year. In the mad dash to buy backpacks, pencils and glue-sticks, as well as fill out endless stacks of permission forms, some basic health-related necessities your child needs to start the school year off right such as vaccinations and a physical exam may go overlooked.

“Depending on their age, it’s important to make sure that kids are up to date on all the necessary immunizations,” said Dr. Karrie Stansfield of Thomasville Pediatrics. “By law, all children in North Carolina who attend school or child care—public or private—must receive certain immunizations. We keep accurate immunization records for our patients to avoid any confusion when their child starts back to school.”

Vaccination requirements for Pre-K and kindergarten-age children include a series of four shots that protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio and varicella (VAR). Older children entering 6th grade must have a booster dose of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

“It’s normal for a child to be anxious about getting a shot, but there’s no way around it,” explained Stansfield. “However, I try to ease young patients’ fears, as well as their parents, by making the experience as stress-free as possible. It’s important for a physician to make a positive impact on children as early as possible so they will develop a proactive approach to their health as they grow older.”

Stansfield warns parents against making children fearful of getting a shot or going to the doctor because of the lasting, negative impression it can have on a child’s attitude towards healthcare providers.

“I always cringe when I overhear a parent telling their child, ‘If you misbehave, the doctor will give you a shot’, ” she said. “I don’t want my patients to associate visiting the doctor or any treatment I may provide with being punished.  I love my job and helping keep kids healthy gives me such pleasure and fulfillment.  Establishing trust with a patient, no matter what their age, is incredibly important to me. I try to make every visit a happy one no matter what the circumstance.”

During back-to-school well-child visits, Stansfield also checks children’s vision and hearing.

“Hearing loss or visual impairments can affect a child’s learning ability, resulting in bad grades or behavioral issues. It’s important to catch these issues early on,” Stansfield said. “A child may or may not show signs of subtle changes in his or her hearing or sight.  Many kids grow and develop so fast over the summer. Vital changes are happening to their bodies, so it’s best get an assessment just to be safe.” 

Pre-school physicals for athletes to be able to participate in school sports programs are also keeping Stansfield and the staff at Thomasville Pediatrics busy.

“I like to keep track of family history, past illnesses and previous injuries such as concussions in our young athletes to help us better address any sports-related issues that may pop up during their training or conditioning,” she said. “Getting a good baseline of an athlete’s cardiac health before the season starts is also important so I tend to ask a lot of questions to see if anyone in the family has heart disease or heart-related issues.”

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, most sudden deaths in young athletes are cardiac related.

Stansfield also pointed out that during the first weeks of school, in addition to their homework, many kids will be coming home with the stomach flu or a cold.

“It comes in waves,” she said laughing. “It takes a couple of weeks for kids to get back around each other before the germs start to take hold and dreaded ‘bug’ sets in and well, welcome back. Parents and teachers have to really be vigilant about getting kids to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough — but even then — they still could get sick. It’s just par for the course.”