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When was the last time your child had a sports physical? If you have to think about it, then it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care provider.  Many schools require a sports physical before a kid can begin practice, which may be starting any day now!

Sports physicals evaluate your child’s physical strengths and weaknesses to determine if your child is physically fit to play a certain sport.  It typically has two parts:  medical history and a physical exam.  For the medical history, your child’s doctor will ask about any sudden/unexpected deaths in the family, any symptoms during exercise (dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, fainting, etc.), allergies, past and present illnesses and injuries, chronic conditions and medications (including over-the-counter).  The physical exam includes a health examination of height, weight and vital signs.  The provider will check your child from head-to-toe including, but not limited to, eyes, nose, ears, chest, joints, bones, and muscles.

Sports physicals are important for preventing injuries.  Children are more vulnerable to sports injuries because they are still growing and developing their coordination.  In addition to regular physicals, many sports injuries can be prevented by using appropriate safety gear, changes to the playing environment, and enforcement of safety rules.

Regular physical examinations are recommended, even if your child doesn’t participate in sports. Children and teenagers need consistent check-ups because of their rapid growth and change.  Regular physical exams also help address possible health concerns right away, instead of letting them snowball into a more serious problem.

Many Fort HealthCare clinics have sent out reminders that it’s time to schedule your Back-to-School check-ups. During these appointments, sports participation forms and immunizations can all be signed off, and best of all, most insurance carriers cover these visits. Don’t wait long. Appointment slots are filling quickly!  Visit FortHealthCare.com/PrimaryCare to find a provider today.

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Your kids bring home a lot of things from school: art projects, homework, playground stories, and permission slips.  But some things, you’d prefer they left behind…like head lice.

Sometimes though, these things happen, no matter how many baths they take. If your child does come home with head lice, don’t get too worried, because lice pose no real health risk.  Lice are more of an annoyance than a health risk (which means you do NOT need to come into the clinic for an appointment.)  The treatment process is slow and tedious. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to prevent head lice from spreading, especially among children.

Lice are usually spread when your head comes into direct contact with an infested person’s head or hair.   They can also be spread by sharing clothes or things that the lice or nits (lice eggs) have attached to, which is less common.  Getting head lice from carpet or furniture isn’t likely, because head lice can only live 1-2 days once they fall off a human and no longer have a food source.  Once nits fall off and are exposed to a different temperature, other than that of the scalp, they are unable to hatch and generally die in about a week.

Here are a few tips for preventing and controlling the spread of head lice.

  1. Avoid contact with another person’s head and hair.
  2. Avoid sharing clothes, such as hats, scarves, coats, sports uniforms and hair ribbons.
  3. Avoid sharing combs, brushes, and towels.  Disinfect combs and brushes after being used by an infected person by soaking them in hot water – (at least 130⁰F) – for about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Avoid lying down on beds, pillows, carpets, furniture, or stuffed animals that have been touched by a person with head lice.
  5. Wash any clothing items, bed sheets, and other items that the person wore two days prior to receiving treatment.  The items should be machine washed with hot water and then dried on your dryer’s hottest temperature setting.
  6. Be sure to vacuum the floors and furniture in which the person came in contact.
  7. Never use sprays to fumigate an area – they are not needed to prevent the spread of head lice and may be poisonous.
  8. Examine your child’s head when he or she has come in close contact with a person infected with lice.

If you think your child has lice, utilize the preventative measures listed above to control the spread, and contact your child’s physician immediately; it is important to start treatment as soon as possible.

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This Fall, when you see your child’s backpack lying around, pick it up and see just how much weight he is lugging around. If it seems like you’re picking up a bag of rocks, then it’s probably far too heavy for your child. 

Back problems related to overloaded backpacks are much more common than you may think.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that over 13,700 children ages 5 to 18 received treatment at hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries from heavy backpacks. Stuffed with everything from lunches to laptops, a heavy backpack causes children to arch their back and bend slightly forward or lean to one side.  Poor posture can lead to misalignment of the spine because the disks are not able to support the weight of the backpack properly. 

Overstuffed backpacks put added stress on muscles and soft tissues, which results in muscle fatigue and strain.  This raises your child’s risk of injuring their neck, shoulder, or back, and can even damage the nerves. 

Here are some helpful tips to lighten the load on your kids’ backs and prevent injuries:

  • When buying a backpack for your child, look for bags with wide, padded straps to relieve the pressure on the shoulders and collarbone. 
  • Choose a backpack that is appropriate for your child’s size. 
  • Look for a lightweight bag.  Consider skipping the leather, which is heavy to begin with, and a lighter-weight fabric, like nylon.
  • Teach them to ALWAYS carry the backpack on both shoulders with the backpack sitting about 2 inches above the waist.  Use the waist strap to spread the weight of the load.
  • Backpacks should be no heavier than 10-20% of your child’s weight. 
  • Put the heaviest items closest to your child’s back to lessen the strain on the back and abdominal muscles, and use all compartments for storage to help spread the weight more evenly. 
  • Have your child stop at their locker often to take out items they don’t need.

Overall, it is helpful to be vigilant throughout the school year. As kids get older it becomes less “cool” to wear a backpack appropriately, and they will likely have even more to carry as the days go by. If you’re concerned your child has experienced neck or back strain, consider making an appointment with a primary care provider for assessment. They may the refer your child for therapy with a clinician from the Fort HealthCare Therapy & Sport Center where there are a number of experts in correcting these injuries. Of course, prevention is key, so pay extra attention when purchasing your child’s backpack and check that load often.

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