James Spencer, MD, Says Immunizations Key to Staying Healthy
It may only be July, but retailers are getting an early start on the back-to-school rush by putting out the school supplies. And today’s students need more than notebooks, pens, markers and other supplies – many need physicals or immunizations before the start of school.
“If your child needs a physical for school, don’t put it off. The earlier you schedule it, the better,” said Dr. Spencer. “As we get closer to the start of school, timeslots fill up and it’s more challenging to get in. You’ll also be busy with paperwork and other school related activities so it’s good to just get this out of the way.”
Before high school athletes hit the fields in early August to begin practicing for fall sports, they need to have a sports physical on file, according to WIAA rules. If the exam takes place after April 1, it is valid for the following two years. If the exam takes place before April 1, it is valid for the remainder of that school year and the following school year. WIAA rules state that during a year when a physical is not required, a parent or guardian must sign an alternate year athletic permit card.
During a sports physical, Dr. Spencer checks the student’s overall health by listening to the athlete’s hearts and lungs and also asks about previous concussions and any other health issues.
“We always have a rush with people coming in the week before practice starts or the week practice starts because they forgot about the physical,” he said. “Call now to set it up.” Children starting school for the first time also need to have a physical exam that checks overall health, including hearing and vision, Dr. Spencer said. Schools provide parents with health forms that need to be filled out by a medical provider with their registration materials. Parents also need to provide the school with a list of their child’s vaccinations.
“It’s important children stay up-to-date on their vaccinations since it not only keeps them safe from disease, but they also stop their spread in the community,” he said. “Everyone – including children – should also receive the influenza vaccination every year too. If a child gets influenza, he can easily miss a week of school and there’s the potential of it developing into a more serious illness that would require hospitalization.”
For middle and high school students, the meningococcal vaccination is now recommended. This vaccine protects against meningitis, a potentially deadly disease that can spread quickly. The first dose is administered around age 12 with the second at age 16.
It’s also recommended children receive the Tdap vaccine at age 12. This vaccine protects against tetanus-diphtheria-acelluar pertussis (also known as whooping cough). Younger children receive the DTaP vaccine, which protects them from the same diseases, and the Tdap is seen as a booster to keep them safe through their teen years.
“It’s important to remember vaccines don’t end when kids turn 5 or 6,” Dr. Spencer said. “For those heading off to college, the meningococcal vaccine is a definite must since meningitis can spread quickly on college campuses where there’s a lot of people living close together.” He said parents should make appointments now if their children need a vaccination or are behind schedule.
“Don’t wait until school is about to start to call. There’s always so much going on for families before the school year starts and squeezing in a doctor’s appointment will just add to that busy to do list,” Dr. Spencer said. “You want to give your child a healthy start to the school year.”
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton opened in February. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.