Family health to-dos for the fall season

Girl wearing mask at vision exam

Is your family settled into your fall routine yet? Before things get too hectic, take some time to take care a few important health-related tasks – doing so now will help prepare you (and your kids) for whatever the school year may bring. Not sure which tasks to prioritize? Our handy checklist can serve as your guide.

□ Schedule sports physicals 

If your child participates in school-sponsored athletics, they need a sports physical every two years. This is to ensure that they don’t have any injuries or medical concerns that could interfere with the game. Be aware that your child must see a health care provider in person for a sports physical. A virtual visit won’t do in this case.

□ Get vaccinated 

The start of the school year is a great time to make sure your kids are up-to-date on all of their routine vaccinations and boosters, including the COVID-19 vaccine. As of June 2022, everyone aged 6 months and up is eligible.

□ Plan for flu shots 

Speaking of routine vaccinations, flu shots might not be available quite yet, but you’ll want to get them as soon as they are. Make a note on your calendar now so you don’t forget to schedule them. Ideally, everyone in the family should get a flu shot before Thanksgiving (at the latest).

□ Make well check appointments 

Starting at age 2, all kids need to see their health care provider for a well check once a year. Among the many important things that occur during this visit are vision, hearing and developmental screenings. Problems or delays in these areas can impact learning, so it is beneficial to identify them — and intervene with support services — as soon as possible, says Dr. Courtney Nall, a family medicine doctor at OHSU’s South Waterfront Primary Care Clinic

□ Provide authorization for medication 

If your child needs to take medication while they are at school, the school will need your permission to provide it to them. Talk to their health care provider about submitting an authorization letter in advance so they don’t miss any of their doses. Also, be sure to update the authorization letter whenever their dose or regimen changes.

□ Inform teachers, coaches and caregivers about allergies 

Does your child have a food allergy (or some other type of allergy)? If so, be sure to let the school know. You should also tell them if your child carries an EpiPen and provide instructions on what to do if an exposure to an allergen occurs.

□ Stock up on COVID-19 home tests and other supplies 

“COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities at a high level,” says Dr. Holly Villamagna, medical director of infection prevention and control at Hillsboro Medical Center. “It is hard to predict what will happen in the coming months, but it is wise to plan for another surge.”

With that in mind, Dr. Villamagna recommends keeping a supply of tests on hand, along with other things that you typically use when someone in the family has a respiratory virus, like thermometers, tissues, throat lozenges and acetaminophen.

□ Address anxiety 

Returning to school is anxiety-provoking for some students, even without all the additional stressors brought on by the pandemic, Dr. Nall says. If your child seems nervous, validate their feelings. Then, find age-appropriate ways to coach them (younger students, for example, might respond to library books about going back to school while older kids might feel better simply by knowing details about their new routine). If the anxiety seems like something more than basic back-to-school jitters, talk to your child’s pediatrician — they can help connect you with mental health resources.

□ Take care of yourself  

Back-to-school season is very student-centric, but it is also a good time to make sure you are on track with all your own health-related to-dos. Is it time for a dental visit, an annual exam, a blood draw or a Tdap vaccine? Schedule them now, before everyone’s calendars fill up. Then, you can get back to enjoying whatever is left of your kids’ summer break.

Holly Villamagna, M.D. 
Hillsboro Medical Center

Courtney Nall, M.D.
OHSU Primary Care Clinic, South Waterfront

This article was written by Dawn Weinberger and originally appeared in the fall 2022 OHSU Health Magazine.