Making the most of a back-to-school physical

During back-to-school time, your to-do list seems endless. Get clothes. Shop for supplies. Complete paperwork. Register for field trips. It’s easy to overlook an essential step: getting your children a medical checkup before the new school year begins. But its important: a back-to-school exam might be many kids only regular visit to their pediatricians. Apart from getting your children a comprehensive health screening, you may want to consider asking specific questions depending on which activities your sons or daughters will be doing during the school year.

The athlete

According to Dr. Paul Stricker, author of Sports Success Rx! Your Child’s Prescription for the Best Experience, over-training and overuse injuries are growing problems in youth sports. If your child is active in anything from football to swimming, its important to review training and exercise programs, confirm full recovery from past injuries and check for joint pain and other trouble signs. Also, have your pediatrician talk to your young athlete about staying properly hydrated while playing sports.

The performer

Kids involved in activities like dance and cheerleading are especially susceptible to sprains, joint hyperextension and muscle pulls or tears. Work with your health care provider to ensure that your child is warming up, stretching and doing the activity safely.

The scholar

Students whose primary activities are debate, chess club and other intellectual pursuits may get too little physical exertion. Have your doctor monitor your child’s weight, blood pressure and blood sugar. Develop a plan to get your
child exercising for at least 60 minutes every day the amount of daily aerobic exercise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for school-age kids. Exercise can help prevent obesity and related health problems later on.

The craftsperson

Is your son or daughter into things like wood shop, auto shop, set building or other craft-
related classes? Industrial environments can be hazardous to the eyes and ears. Have your pediatrician perform vision and hearing screenings, and make sure your children (and their teachers) are following approved safety protocols for working with tools and machinery.

Food for Thought

Good food equals good grades.

The study Diet, Breakfast and Academic Performance in Children confirmed what moms have always claimed: Better nutrition (especially at breakfast) improves academic performance and social functioning in school.

  • Make breakfasts rich in fiber and protein. This promotes steady blood sugar levels and alertness.
  • Serve foods rich in zinc, iron, potassium and calcium such as peanut butter, leafy greens and lean turkey or chicken.
  • Pack lunches full of protein such as hard-boiled eggs, nuts and lean meats.