Family Health

Annual Wellness Visits Play Significant Role for Back-to-School Success

Published: Aug. 1, 2023

Preparing for the school year is an exciting but often hectic time. Of all the things to check off your list, ensuring your child’s wellness ought to be near the top. This might include scheduling a sports physical, wellness visit or immunizations. It may even include getting a head start on a regular bedtime routine.

Remember: Children who are happy, healthy and well rested are more likely to succeed.


Resume Normal Sleeping Patterns

Managing sleep patterns is imperative – and not only during the school year. Children who are fatigued aren’t able to perform at their best – academically or socially.

If your kiddo has fallen into less-than-ideal sleep patterns over the summer, start adjusting sleep and wake times by 15 minutes earlier each night and morning to match the anticipated school schedule. This should start about one to two weeks before the first school day so your child eases back into a good rhythm. If school has already started, it’s not too late to gradually make these sleep adjustments to help your student excel.


The Importance of Annual Wellness Visits

One of the first steps in preparing for a healthy school year is to schedule a wellness visit with your pediatrician. Physicals may be required for sports participation or for students entering specific grades (kindergarten and seventh grade in Nebraska). However, it’s important to schedule a wellness visit every year to ensure that your child receives a full evaluation.

An annual wellness check is important to make sure that appropriate screening tests are performed at the right time. This may include vision or hearing tests and blood work to check cholesterol levels, lead levels or blood counts. We also provide anticipatory guidance to help parents know what to expect during their child’s next year of development, identify any concerns and provide recommendations.

A wellness visit may also include age-appropriate mood, developmental or behavioral assessments to make sure that your child is ready for school. We can help identify gaps and work on plans to arrange extra help if needed.

For older kids, we complete mental health screenings for anxiety and depression, potentially identifying concerns parents may not be aware of.

If your child is participating in sports, appropriate screening questionnaires and examinations to make sure they’re safe to participate in activities will also be performed. This includes screening for family health conditions, heart conditions, anxiety and depression, as well as musculoskeletal conditions that may influence athletic participation. Other important health maintenance factors are often discussed, such as making healthy choices with nutrition, exercise and sleep.


Stay Up to Date With Vaccines

Making sure your child is protected from vaccine-preventable illness is also part of regular well-child care. Your pediatrician will make sure your child is up to date on vaccines to keep them protected from diseases like:

  • Chicken pox
  • COVID-19
  • Diphtheria
  • Flu
  • Haemophilus influenza type B
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • HPV
  • Measles
  • Meningitis
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Polio
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus


Complete Medical Forms

Annual wellness visits also allow us to provide the most up-to-date information to your child’s school. If your child has a condition such as a food allergy, asthma, seizures, diabetes, ADHD or other chronic illness, medications or treatments may need to be administered during school hours. Your child’s school will require clear written instructions to be able to accommodate specific medical needs.

Planning ahead to complete these forms can make the school year less stressful. We can also provide medications that are easily labeled with your child’s name and correct dosage to ensure they’re receiving what they need.


When to Schedule

When it comes to annual physicals for your children and adolescents, you should schedule them well in advance. This is especially important if you know they’re going to need one during the summer months because pediatricians’ clinic schedules tend to fill up quickly.

Most schools do offer a grace period for school physicals, so if you missed the summer physical window and you have a child who needs a required school or fall-sport physical, it’s time to call your pediatrician.

Try to schedule wellness visits around your kids’ birthdays so it’s easier to remember when they are. Outside of school-specific requirements for exams before kindergarten and seventh grade, annual wellness exams can be done anytime during the year and don’t have to be squeezed in during the final days before the start of the school year. That applies for sports physicals, as well, because you can complete a sports physical during the spring semester to be cleared for the fall and vice versa. It’s also a good idea to schedule next year’s wellness exam before leaving the office for this year’s.

If you’re hoping to squeeze your kid in for their annual visit before the start of this fall’s classes, there’s still time to call your pediatrician. We look forward to helping you navigate your child’s health journey and ensure a successful school year this year and every year.


More Resources

About the Author

Inspired by her mother – a nurse – Mariah Davis, MD, knew at a young age that she wanted to take care of others. Taking care of children is something she fell in love with during medical school.

Dr. Davis is dedicated to educating families and including them in the care she provides.

See more articles from Mariah Davis, MD
Dr. Mariah Davis