Back-to-School Health Checklist and Sports Physicals


Ever been in a pediatrician’s waiting room in August? It’s standing room only, jam-packed with kids who need their sports physicals and immunization requirements fulfilled before the school bell tolls anew. July, therefore, is prime time to get a jump on your child’s back-to-school health checklist. Do it now to give yourself a bit more breathing room to complete each task — and avoid the procrastinators come summer’s end.


If your child hasn’t had his annual “well” visit, schedule it now. In one fell swoop, your pediatrician will be able to give him that all-important yearly checkup, fill out necessary sports forms and make sure he’s up to date on immunizations.


Speaking of immunizations, below are the requirements for students entering Kindergarten by state.

• 4 doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine
• 3 doses of polio and hepatitis B vaccine
• 2 doses of measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine

New Jersey:
• 4 doses of tetanus and diphtheria vaccine
• 3 doses of polio and hepatitis B vaccine
• 2 doses of measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) vaccine
• 1 dose of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine

• 4 doses of tetanus and diphtheria vaccine
• 3 doses of polio and hepatitis B vaccine
• 2 doses of measles, mumps and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
• 1 dose of rubella (German measles) vaccine

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania (but not Delaware), students entering 7th grade need the following additional vaccines:
• 1 dose meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV)
• 1 dose of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine (if five years have elapsed since the last tetanus immunization) 

The Sports Physical

If your child plays a sport, she won’t be allowed to step onto the field, mat or court even for a tryout if she hasn’t turned in her completed sports physical form, a multipage document covering everything from height and weight to surgery and concussion history. If you don’t need any other type of medical attention, bypass the busy pediatrician’s office and head to a pharmacy clinic that administers sports physicals.  

The Take Care Clinic at Walgreens – in Wilmington and Newark, DE; Deptford, Sicklerville, Westmont and Williamstown, NJ; Philly, Brookhaven, King of Prussia and Warminster, PA are offering sports physicals for a reduced price, $39 down from $60, through September 30.

The CVS Minute Clinic, with 21 locations in the Philly area (including four in South Jersey: Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Runnemede and Sewell), conducts sports physicals for $49.

Vision check

Many kids find out they need glasses when a teacher spies them squinting at the blackboard. Be proactive and get his eyesight checked now. Your pediatrician can perform a general eye exam for kids who don’t wear glasses or contact lenses. Children who need corrective eyewear should have a comprehensive eye exam by an optician or ophthalmologist. Keep in mind that many vision issues go "unseen."

Hearing test

As we've previously discussed, hearing loss is a growing problem for kids, especially those who use headphones and earbuds. Diminished hearing has been linked to academic difficulties, so make sure a hearing test is part of any summer checkup. If hearing loss is detected, your pediatrician will refer you to a specialist.


Notify your school nurse and, onceclassroom assignments are announced, your child’s teacher about any medication he takes. This includes inhalers for asthma, EpiPens for allergies, insulin for diabetes and any oral prescriptions.

Footwear check

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says flip-flops contribute to leg and Achilles tendon strain. Ditch the thongs for sturdier shoes that provide arch support. Also, get a pair of traditional lace-up sneakers; some phys-ed teachers won’t accept Velcro or zip closures in class.

Food allergies

According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), 1 in every 13 American kids have a food allergy. That's roughly two in every classroom. As such, all kids need to be aware of what they need to do to keep their classmates safe. View FARE's PSA, “Food Allergy Bullying: It’s Not a Joke,” to learn more about how food allergies affect all students once school begins anew.

Backpack check

Kids load their school backpacks to bursting, a situation that can lead to chronic back issues. When purchasing a backpack, the AAP advises finding one with a pair of wide, padded shoulder straps, to minimize shoulder pain. Tell your child not to sling the pack over one shoulder but instead wear it distributed evenly across his back, to avoid muscle strain.

Sleep schedule

Summer wreaks havoc with sleep schedules. No matter how long the sun stays up, preschoolers still need 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night, 5-to-10-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours and 10-to-17-year-olds need 8.5 to 9.25 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Make sure they get the shut-eye they need by keeping a consistent bedtime routine throughout the summer: Their rooms should be dark and quiet, with no electronics to tempt them to stay up watching or playing all night. If they remain steady on sleep, readjusting to rooster-early alarms when the school year starts again won't feel so dramatic.

Head lice

Head lice cases affect an estimated 6 to 12 million American children ages 3 to 11 every year. To help parents learn about dealing with lice, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) has co-developed Lice Lessons, an educational campaign meant to dispel common misperceptions, encourage early involvement by health care professionals and build awareness of new treatment options. Watch the program on demand here


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