Aug 21, 2023 Ask the Doctor September 2023

Likhitha Musunuru, MD, Family Medicine

What are the benefits of an annual physical for children?

While back-to-school is a time to shop for school supplies and the latest fashions, it is also the perfect time to check in on your child’s health with a physical exam. Parents can ease the big change and alleviate stress with the below back-to-school readiness checklist from the pediatric and adolescent health experts at RWJBarnabas Health:

  • Fill out any forms your school has sent home, such as emergency contact and health information forms.
  • Be sure your child has up-to-date immunizations; new this school year, children 12 and over can be vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Inform the school nurse and teachers about medical conditions your child may have, particularly food allergies, asthma, diabetes and any other conditions that may need to be managed during the school day. Arrange with the school nurse to administer medications your child might need.
  • Let teachers know about conditions that may affect your child’s ability to learn. Children with ADHD should be seated in the front and children with vision problems should sit near the board.
  • Be sure your child has a safe backpack and knows not to overload it.

Likhitha Musunuru, MD, Family Medicine, an RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group provider, affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, shares answers to the following common questions related to back-to-school physicals:

Are well visits, physical exams and sports exams the same thing?

Both exams are classified as a preventative care visit – they allow your child to be examined using measurements of growth and development. These visits help keep your child healthy and focus on improvements that can be made to enhance your child’s wellness.

What can my child expect during a back-to-school visit or well exam?

During a back-to-school physical, your provider will discuss your child’s history to discuss any concerns, ask questions about lifestyle behaviors, check their vaccination status and update their medical history. Your provider will also check your child’s vital signs – blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature – and perform heart, lung, abdominal and head and neck exams.

Why do schools require back-to-school physicals each year?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools often require physicals to ensure students’ vaccinations are up-to-date. These exams also provide an opportunity to monitor your child’s health on a year-to-year basis to ensure he or she is hitting milestone benchmarks.

What vaccines are required for school-age children?

New Jersey schools require specific immunizations based on the age of your child. For a full list of vaccinations required all grades in New Jersey, visit

Does my child need any other kind of screening?

Cardiac and concussion screenings have the lifesaving potential to reduce heart-related incidents and brain injuries among school-age children and teens. New Jersey requires all school athletes to be examined by their primary care or school physician at least once per year.

Dr. Musunuru sees patients at 17 Main Street in Robbinsville, New Jersey. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 609-392-6366.

View our Back to School Checklist