Back to school is a great time to head back to the doctor

August 24, 2017

Ketarah Robinson, MD

Nothing screams “back to school” like taking your kids for an annual physical or routine vaccinations. And while it may not be the brightest part of summer, it’s essential.

We are always looking for ways to make our communities healthier, and we know that one way we can improve the overall health and well-being of those we serve is by encouraging regular well-checks. They are essential to good health.

While many kids may be required to get an annual physical for athletic programs or extracurricular activities, this is a habit parents should help form for every child. Yearly check-ups are essential for tracking growth and development and identifying potential health problems before they start or become severe. They also allow parents the opportunity to ask questions or raise any concerns with their pediatrician, and they serve as a great way to stay up-to-date on essential vaccinations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends regularly scheduled well-check visits for all children. Your pediatrician will keep you informed on the timing of those visits during the first 3 years of life and discuss age-appropriate milestones, nutrition and safety. Once children hit the age of three, they should visit their doctor every year until the age of 21.

For children who participate in athletics, the AAP encourages Pre-participation Physical Exams (PPE), also commonly referred to as a sports physical. This is something every child who plans to play a sport should do.

The reason for this is really pretty simple – we want to keep our children safe and healthy.  Just like a well-check allows us to catch health conditions early, a pre-sports physical allows us to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical conditions that could be dangerous or physically limiting for the child, like asthma, heart murmurs or bone and joint problems. Therefore, the best place to have a sports physical completed is at your child’s primary doctor’s office, where his/her medical history is known.

Another key reason for annual well-checks is to stay current on vaccinations. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect their children – from infancy all the way through the teenage years. The reason is simple: diseases like diphtheria, polio and tetanus can cause hospitalization or even death. But thanks to modern medicine, these potentially deadly diseases are preventable.

CDC also recommends that children, pre-teens and teens between the ages of seven and 18 should receive a yearly flu vaccination, as well as vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV), meningococcal disease and Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acelluar pertussis). While the CDC encourages all children get vaccinated for these dangerous diseases, individual states may have different requirements for attendance in public schools. To see what North Carolina requires at each age, visit

If you have questions about your child’s health, call their primary care physician to get all of your concerns addressed.

Ketarah Robinson, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Eastern Carolina Pediatrics.