You may be tempted this year, what with the pandemic still raging, to skip your child’s annual physical exam. After all, they may be learning remotely or not playing team sports. That means you don’t need one for school. Or you may be afraid of picking up the virus at the doctor’s office. But physicals are still important, as early diagnosis and treatment of medical problems can help prevent future emergencies.
At Omni-Med Family Care & Urgent Care in Florham Park, New Jersey, Dr. Roger DiRuggiero and our entire team have taken every precaution to ensure your and your child’s safety while in our office during these trying times. We also want to stress the importance of getting a physical exam, so we’ve put together this brief guide to make the decision easier and put your mind at ease.
The benefits of a physical exam
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lists four primary benefits of the annual physical exam:
1. Preventing disease
Every child needs a series of scheduled immunizations to prevent various illnesses, and the physical is a great time to get caught up if you’ve fallen behind. It’s also the perfect place to inquire about developing nutritional requirements and safety tips for the home and school environments.
2. Tracking growth and development
Doctors have established specific physical, mental, and emotional milestones for growing children, and the physical is the opportunity for your doctor to see how much your child has grown since your last visit and whether or not they’ve reached the proper milestones for their age. If there are developmental lags, you can discuss which interventions are the most appropriate and helpful.
3. Raising concerns
The annual well-child physical is your chance to speak with the doctor about any medical or developmental concerns you have about your child. Make a list of 3-5 of your top questions, and bring them up at the beginning of your visit.
4. Creating a team
Regular medical appointments, including well-child visits, create strong and trusting relationships between doctor, parent, and child.
The sports physical
Even if your child isn’t playing team sports at their school this fall, they’re probably staying active at home. It’s a good idea to make sure that everything — physical and mental — is working well and supports an active lifestyle. The AAP includes the following areas in the sports physical:
Sudden deaths from a cardiac event among athletes are low, but they can be prevented if the underlying condition is caught early enough. Dr. DiRuggiero asks questions about heart-related symptoms and your family’s history of high blood pressure or heart disease. You and your child should also report any past heart evaluations and their outcomes. Most athletes are ultimately cleared to play, but it’s important to get a pediatric cardiologist’s opinion, if necessary.
Growing children, and especially adolescents going through puberty, where the body’s changing almost daily and its hormones are going full steam ahead, have concerns about their mental and emotional health. When you add sports to the mix, with its pressures to perform at peak efficiency and to win at all costs, it can be a powder keg. Depression, stress, anxiety, and perfectionism are just a few of the many manifestations of pressure from all sides. At the physical, though, Dr. DiRuggiero can ask important questions about these kinds of issues in a private and safe setting.
Concussions and head injuries
Any athlete who’s had a concussion or has suffered a probable concussion, shouldn’t return to sports without being cleared by a doctor. At a sports physical, Dr. DiRuggiero can determine if your child is still having problems from a past concussion ― including headaches, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and irritability ― and suggest the best treatment. He can also recommend any adjustments needed for schoolwork and social activities.
Whether your child is heading back to in-person classes this fall, or they’re continuing with distance learning, you can make sure they’re as healthy as possible by scheduling an annual or sports physical before they begin. Give Omni-Med Family Care & Urgent Care a call at 973-377-8776, or book your appointment online with Dr. DiRuggiero today.