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Pediatricians urge parents to schedule back-to-school physicals

They're especially important this year--even if kids aren't going back to school in person

ST. LOUIS — After months of staying home to avoid the coronavirus, pediatricians are urging parents to pack the kids in the car and take the to their yearly physical appointments—which, for many families, happen before the beginning of the school year.

“This visit becomes even probably more important this year than other,” said Dr. John Paulson, president of the Missouri Academy of Family Physicians.

The visit ensures kids are on track with growth and development, and on-schedule with vaccines—even if that doesn’t include a COVID-19 shot yet.

“The parents focus is so much on right now,” said Dr. Paulson, referring to many parents’ debate on what to do about returning to school in the fall. “The physician's focus is on the future and what we need to do so that when we reenter society in more of a normal and social environment that, you know, we haven't missed the opportunity for providing immunizations that we already know work.”

Some aspects of a physical will actually be mental and emotional—something Dr. Paulson says is crucial.

“They've been out of school for a long time. They're their patterns have been disrupted that they rely so heavily on. And just that uncertainty and loss of control and structure probably will result in some additional mental health conditions or behavioral problems, maybe that that family physicians can certainly help with coaching parents to dealing with,” he said.

For kids, the coronavirus comes with a wide range of symptoms. A preventative office visit helps establish a healthy baseline and makes it easier for doctors know what to for a child who starts feeling bad.

“We hope were the first ones that they call so that we can help direct them to the right place for care, whether that's in our own office or whether it's in a specialized unit somewhere that is looking out for the well-being not only of them, but their family and friends and everybody else in the community.”

At appointments, doctors remind kids to wear a seat belt, not to smoke—for health and safety. Proper mask-wearing and social distancing will be part of that discussion, too.

“I think that those conversations continue to be at the forefront.”

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