Back to School Physicals: When and Why You Still Need to Schedule Them

We’re coming to that time of year again – it’s back to school, back to sports hecticness. And that means it’s also time to check on how our growing children are developing and whether there is anything to address. So, while the kids are planning last-minute sleepovers and sunny day adventures, the parents are stocking up on supplies and scheduling appointments.

From understanding vision changes to physical development and overall health before joining peers once again, there are forms that parents fill out annually for the coming school year. Facilities like ARCpoint Labs of Houston Northwest are here to help with school and sports physicals, along with administering important immunizations to ensure that students are set for success.

Back to School Physical Exam Requirements and Recommendations

It’s common for most providers to recommend physicals every two years, although requirements vary by state and by age of the student.

What do Physical Exams Cover?

During these exams, professionals are there to help you and your student successfully navigate some of the complications of growing up. You can expect an overview of personal and family medical history, including any current conditions or medications being taken.

A typical physical will generally include checking:

  • Vital signs
  • Vision acuity
  • Ear, nose, and throat
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Respiratory strength
  • Musculoskeletal function
  • Neuro responses
  • Skin and lymph nodes

Routine important assessments, such as vision and hearing, heart and lung, and blood pressure will be taken, as well as a quick test of the reflexes. The goal is to provide a comprehensive overview of current wellbeing and uncover any potential health risks.

Topics of Discussion During a Physical

Topics that physicians may cover during a back-to-school physical include:

  • Navigating puberty
  • Peer pressure or bullying
  • After-school activities
  • Balancing studying, exercise, and screen time
  • Learning difficulties or classroom issues
  • Backpack wearing safety for weight and position
  • The dangers of drugs and alcohol
  • Bike helmets, seat belts, and other safety precautions
  • Sexual relationships and online presence


Using Immunization to Prevent Diseases During a Physical

Vaccination as a disease prevention method will be an important part of the physical, as there are immunization options for:

  • Meningitis
  • Tetanus
  • Pertussis
  • The flu
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Addressing Physical Development During a Physical

Some of the common things that physicians will discuss with students during a physical have to do with how much they’ve grown since the last exam.

Physical development discussions may include:

  • Vision and hearing tests
  • Checking the spine curvature for scoliosis
  • Addressing weight concerns
  • Any issues with current developments

Questions to Ask at Your Physical

When students are young, questions to consider bringing up with a physician usually center around why vegetables are good for you or understanding why some students are so much taller than others. As children age, questions might focus more on the amount of nightly sleep, clearing acne, and handling stress. Other considerations are how to improve body image, stay away from drugs, and figure out mental health concerns.

FAQs About Physical Exams

How Long Do Physicals Take?

It typically takes about 45 minutes to complete a back-to-school physical. Naturally, if health concerns are uncovered during the exam, it may require extra time during your exam or to schedule follow-up appointments, but generally, you can expect the exam itself to be under an hour.

What’s the Difference Between a Back-to-School Physical and a Sports Physical?

There is not much of a difference, essentially, they are the same types of examinations for different purposes. Because of this, the sports exam may be more extensive to ensure that the student-athlete can safely participate in sports, but overall, it’s another chance to monitor development and address potential concerns.

What Should You Bring to a Physical Examination?

Any medical forms that you might need the doctor to fill out prior to school should be brought to your appointment. It’s also a good idea to bring along:

  • prescriptions,
  • glasses,
  • contacts,
  • hearing devices,

and any other resource that your child uses.

How Do Physicals Change as Students Get Older?

While the goal always remains the same, the process of physical exams changes as students age to ensure that the appropriate assessments are administered. In preschool and kindergarten, it’s important to be up to date with all vaccinations before beginning school. This is when children learn about what doctor appointments are like, and how to begin creating a relationship with physicians and their own physical health.

As children go into elementary school, the focus turns to understanding bodily changes and seeing how much progress has been made since the last exam. Middle schoolers between the ages of 11 and 14 are going through (or going to be soon) many changes that need explanation and support to help build self-confidence. As students get into high school, the focus changes again to encompass tools for making decisions for themselves and looking toward the future.

Tips for a Great School Year

Backpack safety

Set your child up for success this year by encouraging them to follow recommendations for balance and safety. Study time should be around two hours on average, to help ensure that students don’t feel overwhelmed while still taking the necessary time to absorb information and get homework done. Try keeping screen times at around an hour and consider at least one hour of physical activity daily very beneficial for overall wellness.

Backpacks should be worn with the straps properly adjusted on the shoulders, and they should not weigh more than 10% of the child. A backpack that is too heavy can cause injury and lead to issues longer term.

The ultimate goal of physicals is to make sure that everyone is safe and healthy going into the new school year. Be sure to schedule your student’s exam in a timely manner to get everything taken care of – our team is here to help. With support from a nationally recognized brand, we are local to the Houston area to make sure our community is a healthy place to live and learn.