by Steven D. Blatt, MD
Ever wonder why kids need a physical examination to go to school? From June to September, pediatric offices are packed with kids and parents getting their forms filled out for school. Ironically, the main purpose of the visit is not to detect disease; with the exception of a need for glasses, it is uncommon to detect a previously unknown illness during the school physical exam. However, there are a number of important reasons to have the School PE.
One practical reason to have your child receive a School PE is that without it, your child cannot attend school. New York State law requires a PE at Kindergarten, 2, 4, 7 and 10th grades and for all students new to the district. No PE, no school. Another reason kids need a physical exam is for after school sports. All children receiving medication during the school day need authorization by the health care provider. The school PE is a great opportunity to discuss this with the pediatrician or nurse practitioner and obtain the authorization. This can include medications for asthma, Attention Deficit Disorder, or even pain medications such as acetaminophen.
The school PE is a great opportunity to discuss your concerns about your child’s educational performance or progress. Although the teacher is the educational expert, pediatricians also have expertise and experience in child development. Often times, having known your child since birth, the pediatrician has insight into their abilities and educational needs. There are medical conditions that can impact a child’s education, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Most parents know their child will need their shots to attend kindergarten. That set of immunizations can actually be given anytime after 4 years of age, but they must be given by the time kindergarten starts. The immunization schedule changes slightly each year, but in general, the kindergarten series includes DaPT (Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus), Polio, MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), and Varicella (chickenpox).
What parents may not realize is that as kids get older, additional immunizations are needed. Children in 6th grade need a Tetanus booster (Tdap). Although not required by NYS law, children are eligible to receive Meningococcal vaccine at 11 years of age, with a booster after 16 years of age. Human Papillomavirus can be administered in three doses starting at age 11. Annual Influenza or Flu vaccines are recommended for all children older than 6 months of age.
Schools want your child to be healthy and want to insure that children will not be exposed unnecessarily to infectious diseases. The school physical examination is one way to insure this. Remember to do your homework and book your child’s school PE early… everyone in their class needs one too!
MedlinePlus article on Childhood Immunization
Federal gateway to information on vaccines
MedlinePlus article on School Health