Health Care Question of the Month

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Question: How can I ensure my child has a healthy start to the school year?

Answer: With school just around the corner, this is a good time to make sure your child has the required immunizations to stay healthy throughout the school year.  While a trip to your child’s pediatrician may include vaccinations, a physical exam or other testing, it is also a great opportunity for you to discuss any other health and safety questions you may have about your child.

Vaccines keep children healthy. In most cases, vaccines cause no side effects, or only mild reactions such as fever or soreness at the injection site. Very rarely, people experience more serious side effects, such as allergic reactions.


Keep your child healthy with the proper vaccines.

Keep your child healthy
with the proper vaccines.

According to Dr. Boyd Miller, a Columbia St. Mary’s pediatrician, most childhood vaccines are 90 to 99 percent effective in preventing disease.  “These significant positive outcomes far outweigh the mild discomfort of some immunizations or shots and their low risk of side effects,” said Dr. Miller.  “Whether it's a childhood chicken pox series or a meningococcal vaccine for a teen, these simple procedures really do save lives.”

Recently, there has been a lot of misinformation reported about the safety of certain vaccines or concerns about getting several vaccines at one visit.   Dr. Miller strongly recommends that you discuss these concerns with your child’s pediatrician, who offers expertise on this topic and has the best interest of your child in mind when recommending certain treatments or vaccinations.

The State of Wisconsin requires certain immunizations for each age/grade level prior to enrollment of a student.  There are recent changes to the state’s Student Immunization Law for the 2010-2011 school year. See a complete listing of immunization requirements.

Although your doctor keeps vaccination records, you also may find it helpful to keep your own records. This can be especially useful if the immunizations have been provided by more than one health care facility over the years. You should pass a complete immunization record along to your children as they become adults, and the Wisconsin Immunization Registry is an easy way to keep track of immunizations.


Discuss any concerns you have about your child's growth and development with her pediatrician.

Talk about your child's development
with her pediatrician.

Physical Examination
A physical examination and clearance of good health by a doctor is often required for your child to participate in school-related sports.  While a sports physical may be what prompts you to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician, you should use this visit to discuss other problems and any concerns you have about your child’s health, growth and development. 

“It’s helpful to have your child’s sports physical conducted by his pediatrician because this doctor has the most comprehensive record of your child’s medical history and can offer the most thorough recommendations based on this information,” suggests Dr. Miller.

Other Health and Safety Topics

In addition to visiting your child’s pediatrician, take time during your back-to-school preparations to:

  • Schedule a dental appointment. Children, just like adults, should visit a dentist regularly to maintain good oral health.
  • Talk about bus and car safety. Now is a worthwhile time to review the basics such as always wearing a seatbelt and looking both ways before crossing the street. If your teen is driving, remind him or her to avoid distractions and pay close attention to the road when he is behind the wheel.
  • Discuss how to best handle bullying at school. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage your child to report bullying immediately.
  • Teach your child to make healthy lunch selections like choosing water over soft drinks and eating nutritious snacks and meals while at school.

By taking a little extra time to prepare your children to return to school, you can be sure they will start the year healthy and safe.

If you are in search of a new pediatrician, check out the Find a Physician or Clinic page on Columbia St. Mary’s web site.


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