For Release:

Department of Health Reminds Parents to Add Health Visits to Back-to-School Checklist

With students heading back to school next month, the New Jersey Department of Health is encouraging parents and guardians to include school physicals, eye exams and vaccinations to the checklist in addition to the standard school supplies, books and backpacks to get a jump start on health requirements and classroom readiness.

“There is a correlation between academic achievement and overall good health,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett. “Families should make sure children are up-to-date with health exams and immunizations when back-to-school season rolls around. Saying goodbye to summer fun is always difficult but planning ahead makes the transition easier and less stressful.”

As August is National Immunization Awareness Month, this annual observance is the perfect time to highlight the important role vaccines play throughout one’s lifespan to protect against serious and sometimes deadly diseases. In combination with yearly physicals, both wellness and athletic (for students planning to play sports during the schoolyear), this dual defense enables students to put their best foot forward each day ultimately influencing higher school attendance and performance in the classroom.

Childhood vaccines protect against 14 serious diseases such diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox) and pneumococcal disease, thereby reducing the spread of disease to others in classrooms, child care centers and communities.

As children get older, they are more likely to get certain diseases like meningococcal disease and infections that can lead to human papillomavirus (HPV) cancers. Preteens can be protected long before their risk of infection increases by getting recommended vaccines. Additionally, some childhood vaccines wear off over time, so booster shots are needed to help stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Talk to your healthcare provider routinely to assess vaccination needs.  Information about vaccines, recommended immunization schedules for all age groups and programs that provides vaccines at no cost to children of low-income families can be found at the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html.

Wellness and sports physicals are equally essential for students heading back to school, especially for those who plan to participate in organized sports to determine disqualifying conditions and to ensure a safe playing environment. The purpose of this pre-screening is to determine physical and medical limitations including cardiovascular, neurologic, visual, orthopedic, general medical and mental health to help identify those conditions that may predispose a student to injury or sudden death. For health forms, guidelines and resources, be sure to visit your child’s school and/or township school district website.

When participating in physical activity, it is also important to be aware of the signs of a concussion.  A concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way the brain normally works. Each year, U.S. emergency departments treat an estimated 173,285 sports– and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, including concussions, among children and teens, from birth to 19 years.  Reported symptoms related to concussions include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and blurry vision.  More information on concussions can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_symptoms.html.

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

For more information, visit our homepage at nj.gov/health.

Last Reviewed: 8/16/2017