Doctor: Don’t forget annual exams

Published 12:03 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

As the new school year quickly approaches, it’s time for parents and their school-aged children to begin tackling their back-to-school to-do lists. Among other things, this should mean a trip to the pediatrician for an annual checkup and discussions about important subjects like study habits and bedtimes.

“While a yearly physical exam may not seem urgent, it is an important part of a child’s health care, and the back-to-school season is a convenient and easy-to-remember time to get it in,” said pediatrician Dr. Charles Eldridge. “An annual physical gives your pediatrician a chance to provide your child with a thorough exam. It’s also a good opportunity to confirm that vaccinations are up-to-date and address important questions, including adolescent issues like drinking, drugs, sexual activity and depression.”

Eldridge said that while many children are involved in school athletic programs and may receive sports-specific exams through their school, those exams shouldn’t replace an annual check-up by your family pediatrician, “as they tend not to address the child’s overall health.”

In addition to being an ideal time for an annual physical exam, the back-to-school season is also a great time for families to consider “or reconsider,” Eldridge said, important subjects like homework and bedtime routines.

“To many children, homework is a cruel, although necessary, part of life that can become easy to neglect,” he said. “While parents may sympathize with their plight, children need to understand that homework is an integral part of the school curriculum and must be attended to regularly and with the utmost attention. By establishing a sound homework routine early on, children will be positioned for success for the duration of their academic lives.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers these tips for supporting good study routines in your home:

• Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Children need a permanent workspace that is quiet, well lit and free from distractions.

• Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic devices – including cell phones, MP3 players and gaming systems – stay off during homework time.

• Set aside ample time for homework.

• Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework.

• In many households, bedtime (much like homework) can be an ongoing battle, but ensuring your child gets enough sleep is critical to his/her growth and development.

To learn more about steps you can take to help your child go back to school with success, talk to your pediatrician or visit, a resource of the AAP.