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As families prepare for the beginning of a virtual school semester, a big part of that preparation is visiting with a pediatrician to get a health assessment and ensure that vaccinations are up to date, according to Lt. Col. Shaprina Williams, doctor, chief, Department of Pediatrics at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

“Immunizations are still important to prevent community spread of diseases we have a vaccine for. Even if kids are not going to physically be in school, they will still be out in the community. Eventually, they will be going back to school, so they should be immunized at the recommended intervals,” Williams said.

Physicals for all students

The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends an annual school physical, and Williams said that is a great opportunity to make sure students are up-to-date with all immunizations. The physical examination also provides opportunities to identify silent or subtle illnesses or conditions and allows the health-care professional to educate children and their parents about the body, and its growth and development.

“We can assess those who may have issues coping with isolation and the results of quarantine,” she said. “If children are healthy, they don’t come to the doctor, except for their school physicals, and we try to catch them for their intervention and screenings at that time.”

The AAP suggests that adolescents who need a yearly sports physical exam get a complete health supervision checkup, which evaluates three, key systems: the cardiac, musculoskeletal and neurologic systems.

Physical activity more important now

Williams noted that months of shelter-at-home tends to cause an increase in weight of children, and that those with mood disorders can get worse from the isolation, as they miss out on socialization.

Williams said parents of special needs students should review their Individualized Education Plan to ensure they’re up to date and that they are being implemented by each teacher.

“I would say the parents need to be patient, and the students need to be patient with parents, especially those who are trying to work from home while also helping with class,” said Williams. “I would also recommend reviewing the back-to-school plans the school board has put out to know what to expect. Such things like attendance requirements, assignment deadlines, so they can let the students know when it needs to be done and how it should be completed.”