Back-to-school wellness

9/14/2017  By HealthNews

September 14, 2017

Local pediatric providers Drs. Bruce and Elise Herman

Imagine the busy pace of a doctor's life. Multiply it by two, and you've got Drs. Bruce and Elise Herman. Which is why we opted for an email interview rather than finding a time when everyone could meet. We tried to ask the questions you would ask, and hope parents will find this information helpful in navigating the changes and challenges of a new school year.

What’s a wellness checkup and why is it important?
Well child visits are routine visits to assess a child’s growth and development as well as to discuss nutrition, safety and overall well-being of your child.

How can a pediatric visit help families prepare for the school year?
These visits can assess readiness for school in terms of overall health, nutrition, sleep habits, separation issues and learning concerns. Things that may interfere with learning such as bullying and emotional issues may come up. We also encourage kids to continue to read and learn over the summer so the start to school is smoother.
If a child is interested in starting a new sport, should parents first consider talking to a pediatrician (beyond getting a sports physical)?
This usually is not necessary although parents do often ask about the risk of some sports in terms of concussions and other safety issues.
Do you see children in your practice who have underlying issues with bullying or general unpleasantness at school (perhaps the stress manifests itself as a stomach ache, for example, but it turns out there’s an environmental reason for it)? If/when you encounter these situations, how do you generally deal with them in terms of helping the child and parent? 
Bullying, sadly, is common at most ages although its form may vary. Younger kids may taunt, push or exclude from playground games and older kids may ignore or ostracize, spread rumors or use cyberbullying. 

It is not unusual to see a child for a physical concern (stomach aches, insomnia, depression) that is rooted in bullying. We support the child for talking about it and involving trusted adults who can address the problem. It is very important that parents then let the school staff know the concern.
For children with dietary restrictions due to food allergies or other conditions, are you able to help parents navigate the logistics of school lunches?
There is paperwork that we help with in terms of emergency care (EpiPen) but do not get involved with foods offered at the school.
If the parent is a participant in the wellness visit, how can they best prepare – what kinds of questions or information should they try to prepare before coming in? How can they prepare their child, as well?
It is helpful for kids to understand the purpose of the visit—to assess their growth and development and simply put, to make sure they are healthy. Parents can speak with their kids about what to expect, such as that they will be weighed and measured, have their temperature taken, etc.  Kids wear a cloth gown that preserves their modesty while allowing us to do a thorough exam. 

For kids about age 2-3 and older,  discussing why examining the child’s whole body (yes, even the ‘privates’) is important is helpful. During the well child check we also explain this and ask both the parent and the child’s permission to do so before proceeding.

We generally begin teen well visits by talking with the teen and their parent(s) about basic health issues.  We then like to meet with the teen alone and confidentially to discuss any more personal topics and complete the physical exam. This helps the teen to develop a greater sense of responsibility for their own health. 

In general, if the parents are positive about the well child check, kids will be, too!

Dr. Bruce Herman is an obstetrics and pediatric provider at KVH Family Medicine - Ellensburg. Dr. Elise Herman is a pediatrics provider at Ellensburg Pediatrics. Read Dr. Bruce's provider story.

Managed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, HealthNews does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please see your healthcare provider.