It’s that time of the year again when parents must start preparing their children for going back to school. They have massive to-do lists and are rushing around trying to avoid the last-minute rush. Two items that parents frequently forget on their list is to have their children’s immunization records kept up to date, and to have physical examinations to allow sports participation.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM17) and affords the perfect opportunity for health care professionals to alert families of these medical requirements. Vaccinations and physicals should fill the top two slots on the task list but parents often get overwhelmed and need a little nudge.

State & School Immunization Requirements

Every state has their own laws that govern immunization requirements and you must check with them, your school, and your doctor about which shots are needed to stay up to date. You also want to remind parents that some schools will not even permit a child into their classrooms without the proper documentation of their immunization. Help parents to be ahead of this potential obstacle by reminding them to collect school forms to take to their health care practitioner/medical center, to be filled out, signed and returned before the start of the school year. They should also be encouraged to keep a copy for their own records.

Why Vaccinations Are Still Essential

Having a school population that is effectively vaccinated prevents the spread of disease. Over the years, infectious diseases have almost been eradicated thanks to the efficacy of vaccines. However, these viruses and dangerous bacteria still hover in our environments and can be contracted by those who have not been inoculated, who in turn spread the disease.

Outbreaks still occur even in a vaccinated world. In as recent as 2014 there was a rampant spread of measles in 27 states in the U.S., resulting in 668 reported cases. In 2016 another measles outbreak occurred causing 48 infections reported by the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). Between January 1 –June 13, 2016 an outbreak of whopping cough resulted in 6,000 infections in 50 states as well as Puerto Rico. We are still susceptible to devastating outbreaks in this decade.  While some of the cases involved children who had been immunized, the effects were dramatically milder than those who had not been inoculated against the disease.

When to Vaccinate

The  CDC offers extensive online resources to walk the parents through the process of what vaccinations are needed and at what age. Getting children vaccinated before starting the new school year is a responsible action that ensures the health of an entire community and can prevent unnecessary infections. A child under the age of six needs vaccinations against 14 diseases and pre-teens/teens need at least an additional three. The whole family should also get a yearly flu vaccination to ward off new strains that arise.

Prepare for PPE

Many schools will ask for a signed release form from their family doctor before a child can go onto the sports field. You don’t want your child to be sitting on the side lines as their classmates engage in playing because you forgot this step. This process is known as a pre-participation physical examination (PPE) and it is conducted to give the school an all clear to allow a child to engage in a specific sport. This is vital because the child and family’s medical history should reveal if there are any concerning factors that would put the child in danger, if they participated. These include a history of asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, surgeries, allergies, past injuries, medication etc. This information can be filled out before arriving for the actual physical examination.

The doctor will take blood pressure and pulse, test vision, record the child’s height and weight, check the lungs, heart, abdomen and evaluate posture, strength and flexibility. The doctor will also question the child about performance enhancement supplements, any drug use and dietary supplements to get the most accurate picture of their overall health. A PPE can help to prevent injuries and identify any risk factors around certain sports activities. This physical examination is usually required starting from the seventh grade. They will need to have this examination once a year thereafter.

Send Parents a Helpful Reminder

Before the back to school madness hits, you can reach out to your network to remind parents about these two essential tasks that mustn’t be forgotten. Call-Em-All delivers automated options for you to ensure that you can send reminder notifications to parents about back to school vaccinations and sports physicals. Our easy to use system will make sure that you can spread this message with minimal manual effort.