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Published on August 02, 2013

Vaccinations, physicals help prepare children and their parents for the school year ahead

By Jennifer O’Boyle, physician assistant, Palos Medical Group


Call your child's physician to schedule an exam before school begins.

Going back to school is an important time of the year. Kids need to get used to waking up early, and getting on schedules again. Parents need to get used to waking their kids up early and helping out with homework.

It is also time to make sure school and sport physicals are done and vaccinations are up to date. Take the time to do this sooner than later.

Parents should always keep a copy of their child’s physical form so the immunization record is available. And they shouldn’t be afraid to ask any questions about their child’s physical, mental or social well-being at the visit. All of these are important aspects of the child’s health and wellness, and a physical exam is a great opportunity to take care of any concerns.

Vaccinations and physicals

During these appointments is a good time to make sure your child is up to date on immunizations. The requirements have changed and vary between schools, and it’s important to know what your child needs. There is nothing worse than finding out at the last minute your child is missing something. It’s just an unnecessary stress for everyone!

For most schools in our area, physical exams are required upon entering kindergarten, sixth grade and high school. The freshman exam also covers any high school sports your child plays within this year (This doesn’t count club sports). Kindergartners will receive their last set of childhood booster vaccines at this visit. Sixth graders will receive their Tdap booster. High school students will receive their Tdap booster if they need it and possibly a Menactra vaccine, which prevents against bacterial meningitis. 

Also, vaccination records will be reviewed at these visits and children will be caught up on any other vaccines they may have missed. Other optional vaccines that could be given include Hepatitis A and Gardasil.

One important change is the Tdap vaccine, or what people are referring to as the whooping cough shot. Up until a few years ago, kids entering high school would get their Td booster, or tetanus shot. This vaccine did not have the pertussis component like their childhood vaccination. Then there were numerous outbreaks of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, found on some college campuses across the country. Whooping cough is essentially a bacterial infection that causes a fairly prolonged cough. Signs and symptoms vary between children and adults. For most people it is treated with antibiotics but it can last for 6 to 12 weeks.


We always recommend checking with your insurance company to see if you are covered for immunizations given at a physician’s office. Many of our patients have good insurance but need to get their shots at their local township. This is important to know before coming to the visit so you do not get billed for a service your insurance will not cover.

Well being

During the physical exam, it’s a good time for parents and children to address any concerns they have. These issues may not have to do with their physical health. 

Kids today have a lot more to deal with on a daily basis – social media, peer pressure, bullying. It is important to let your child know they can talk to both you and your health care provider about these issues. 

Don’t be surprised if your doctor or physician assistant asks you to leave the room so he or she can have a more open discussion with the child. It allows patients to speak more freely without their parents in the room. This is the best and most effective way to get kids to answer our questions concerning a day in the life of an adolescent or teenager.  

During my 16 years in practice, I have learned this can be a valuable tool in helping the patient feel more comfortable in opening up about important topics, ultimately building a provider-patient relationship based on trust. Building a solid relationship allows the child to come to us when they need to, without feeling worried or self- conscious. I pride myself on the fact that I have taken care of patients since they were young. I know all about their lives, and they come to me for their health and wellness, and with any other issues they need taken care of. 

Jennifer’s office is in Palos Primary Care Center South, 15300 West Avenue, Suite 223, Orland Park. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Palos Medical Group at (708) 460-5100 or visit