Physicals and Vaccinations

Child being examined by doctor with mom

Believe it or not, it’s time to start getting ready to head back to school. The new school year is only a few weeks away, and the earlier you start preparing, the smoother your transition from summer to school will be! Making sure that your child is healthy and strong is a vital part of the back-to-school prep. Read on to learn the basics about physicals, sports physicals, and vaccinations. 

Physicals

Kids who are entering kindergarten or elementary school at a Virginia public school are required by law to have a physical before they can enter the building. These exams can take place at your pediatrician’s office. They are also offered at walk-in clinics statewide. All back-to-school physicals use standards set by the Virginia Department of Education. You can take a look at the physical exam form here.

Going to the doctor can be scary for lots of kids, especially younger ones, so it’s important to let your child know what to expect. Physicals will vary by age group, but they generally include:

  • Height and weight measurement
  • Blood pressure and pulse readings
  • A full physical examination, including the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
  • Vision and hearing tests

In Virginia, the public school physical exam also includes a tuberculosis (TB) skin test. This test involves a small needle, so if your child is afraid of needles, it’s a good idea to prepare them for that.

Preschools, private schools, and public middle and high schools don’t have legal guidelines for physicals that are set by the state. Check with your school or district to find out what their policies are. Some public school districts require an additional physical before starting middle or high school. Many private schools follow the same physical guidelines as public schools.

The good news is that back-to-school physicals are usually free at your doctor’s office! Most insurers – including Virginia Premier – cover the cost of an annual physical for kids and adults alike. Some walk-in clinics that perform physicals do charge a fee, so make sure you know before you go.

Sports Physicals

If your child is an athlete, they’ll need a sports physical. Sports physicals ensure that your child is healthy and fit enough to play competitive sports. They’re a lot like a regular back-to-school physical, but have a special focus on flexibility and strength. They’re offered year-round at your pediatrician’s office and at walk-in clinics near you. If your child plays a sport that takes place later in the school year, they can wait until six weeks before the season starts to have their physical.

The Virginia High School League, which oversees sports at all public high schools in Virginia, requires student-athletes to complete a sports physical. The form they use can be found here. Private schools and public middle schools have their own requirements, so check with your school or district about their policies.

Unlike back-to-school physicals, sports physicals aren’t usually free, and may not be covered by insurance. Your pediatrician or preferred walk-in clinic will be able to tell you what kind of cost to expect.

Vaccinations

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) requires all students, both in public and private schools, to have an up-to-date vaccination record. While it’s recommended that parents follow the CDC’s immunization schedule for their child, the minimum vaccine requirements to enter school in Virginia are:

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTP) or Diphtheria and Tetanus (DT)
  • Hemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib)
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • Polio
  • Varicella (chickenpox)

Your child will also need Hepatitis B vaccinations and a DTP/DT booster in middle school. Girls are required to begin their human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations before starting sixth grade.

If you are not vaccinating your child for religious reasons, you’re required by law to submit a certificate of religious exemption to your child’s school. This form is available on VDH’s website.

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