With homeschooling and hybrid learning disrupting classroom learning for the past 18 months, it’s easy to forget what preparing for a “normal” school year might look like for the nearly 17,950 students enrolled in Kosciusko County.

In addition to buying new clothes and stocking your child’s backpack with the right supplies, Lutheran Health Network recommends an annual physical and the proper immunizations to help start your child’s new school year on a healthy foundation.

“Being ‘healthy’ means much more than not being sick. It’s about living one’s best life,” says Alex Tanase, MD, CMQ, FAAP, Lutheran Health Physicians in Warsaw. “The well child exam offers an opportunity for a holistic assessment with focus on health promotion, disease prevention and early detection. Included in a well visit is the physical exam required for a sports physical health.”

Children should receive an annual checkup with their provider even if they are healthy. At a checkup, your child will receive a full physical exam including measurements such as height and weight. This is a good time for parents to discuss any developmental, emotional or social concerns with the provider. Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover a free annual well-child visit, according to a news release from Lutheran Health Network.

“Well checks are not only essential for your child’s health, but they also give your kid the chance to interact with doctors and nurses when they aren’t feeling sick,” said Tanase.

Immunizations are another important way to protect your child’s health. While COVID-19 vaccinations are not yet available for children under the age of 12, there are numerous other vaccines parents should discuss with their child’s provider, especially for children beginning school for the first time.

Receiving the right shots at the right time will help protect your child from contracting various diseases and help prevent the spread to others. Talk with your provider to learn what vaccinations your child should receive and at what age. You can find a vaccine guide for parents below.

“The World Health Organization reports that 23 million children worldwide missed vaccines in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic,” said Joy Struble, MD, Lutheran Health Physicians in North Manchester. “Childhood vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent disease and help to keep our children healthy. Now is the time prior to starting school for parents to update vaccines for their children. For those children who are eligible, it is important for parents to also consider vaccinating their children with the COVID vaccine.”

If your child or teenager is involved in sports or other physical activities, their coaches may require a sports physical before they begin to play. A sports exam is similar to an annual physical exam, with the addition of the provider’s review of sports-related matters such as nutrition and injuries. A primary care provider such as a family practice or pediatrician will be able to conduct a sports physical for your child.

“Every year, tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines,” said Tanase. “Vaccines are the most effective preventative measures, and they have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today. That’s why most parents choose immunization — it’s a powerful defense that’s safe, proven, and effective. Even though most parents do a good job of keeping up with immunizations, about one-fourth of preschool children are missing at least one routine vaccination. Talk to your provider about well child exam visits and the recommended immunizations. Take control of your children's health and give them the best chances of growing into healthy young adults.”

If you need help finding a Lutheran Health Physicians primary care provider or pediatrician, call 833-546-4968. You can also find available primary care provider appointments online.