As some youth sports teams get started again, some summer camps and daycares are opening up, and we begin to think about school (or some form of it) in the fall, many parents are wondering: what do I do about getting that physical form I need for my child?

Understandably, many families do not want to go to the doctor right now. They are worried about going anywhere, and especially worried about going to a medical office, where they are concerned they may end up around sick people.

I want to say up front that most medical facilities are very aware of the risk, and take measures to make sure that patients can safely get the medical care they need. But when it comes to forms for physicals, in some cases families may not need to leave their homes at all — or if they do, they may be able to do it in a limited way.

What questions should parents ask about forms for sports, daycare, or school?

Do I even need a form?

  • In many school districts, forms are not required every year but rather at certain times, such as kindergarten or middle school entry. Parents should check and find out; it may not be an issue at all.
  • Some activities and facilities that the child has attended in the past may be willing to use a previously submitted form. It’s worth asking.
  • Because of the pandemic, there may be some wiggle room or a grace period allowed for forms. Again, parents should check.

Would my child’s last appointment suffice for the form?

  • Very often, what is required is documentation of a check-up within the past one to two years. If your child had a check-up within that time frame, you may be able to just get a form sent to you, no visit needed.

Would a telehealth visit be possible — and accepted?

  • Many practices, mine included, are providing well-child care via telehealth for children who do not need to be seen in person — and providing forms based on those visits. (It’s helpful if you can get your child’s height and weight before the visit.). Parents should call their doctor to find out if this is an option, and also check to be sure a form based on a telehealth visit would be accepted.

Does my child need immunizations or something else that requires an in-person visit?

  • It’s very important that children stay up to date on immunizations. Because of the pandemic, many children are falling behind. This may lead to outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, many of which could be more dangerous to children than COVID-19.
  • There are some conditions that require in-person monitoring, like anemia or high blood pressure. While many practices are finding remote ways to manage these and other chronic health problems, not everything can be done remotely. Parents should check with their doctor.

If my child needs to go in person, what can be done to keep us safe?

I strongly encourage families to call their doctor’s office to find out what they are doing to minimize risk; they will likely be pleasantly surprised. For instance:

  • In my practice, we have cut down on the number of patients we are seeing, and spread out the appointments so that patients go directly into rooms and don’t wait in a waiting room. We also do lots of screening before and at the visit, everyone wears a mask, and we have made physical changes to our office as well as changes in our routines that make spread of the virus less likely.
  • Sometimes, the visit can be streamlined by having a phone call or virtual visit ahead of time to collect information. Then when the child comes in, it’s for a quick exam and any shots or other in-person care they need, minimizing the time in the office. Parents should see if this is an option.

As a pediatrician, the most important thing to me is that children get the medical care they need. I worry that many children won’t because their families are afraid of COVID-19. Please, call your doctor and talk about what your child needs — and how they can get it safely. Trust me, we are just as invested in your child’s health and safety as you are.

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

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