Memorial Regional Health: Make time for a checkup before school

Back-to-school time is a great time to catch up on kids’ health checkups. If your children haven’t seen their pediatrician or family care provider for a thorough checkup in the past year, fall is perfect, according to Memorial Regional Health pediatrician Dr. Linda Couillard.

“Wellness exams have fallen out of favor during the pandemic,” Dr. Couillard said. “It’s understandable that people are visiting their doctors less than usual for preventive care. But now it’s time to catch up again.”

Children’s examination takes into account all aspects of their health. “I look at growth, nutrition, developmental milestones, vision, social/emotional development, safety, sometimes blood work — everything,” Couillard said. “This is a really important visit.”

And as long as the provider takes the time to do the thorough exam, the child feels comfortable with the provider. “The good kid check gives us time to get to know each other,” Couillard said. “And when kids feel comfortable with their doctor, they’re less anxious about the next visit.”

Fall is ideal for reviews, she added, because families see back-to-school as a time when everything needs to be organized and settled. This should include wellness. And if children need follow-up care, glasses, vaccinations, or other support to participate fully and safely in school, it’s a good idea to get those things done early in the school year.

Vaccines keep children healthy

“Local families are generally great about informing their children about routine vaccinations,” Couillard said.

In fact, a public health organization called Immunize Colorado tracks vaccination rates by school district, and the Moffat County School District has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.

This means that children here are at very low risk of outbreaks of tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough (whooping cough), diphtheria, hepatitis, polio and varicella (chicken pox).

For lots of parent-friendly health information, including the American Academy of Pediatrics-approved vaccination schedule, go to

In addition to the vaccines listed above, the AAP also recommends that children be vaccinated against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease (pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis). For older children, vaccines against meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus (HPV) are also on the AAP list.

If you’re wondering about flu and COVID-19 vaccinations for your children, the AAP recommends those, too. Most children 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every year.

The flu can be dangerous for children, especially those under the age of 5, and because children are exposed to many viruses at school, getting them vaccinated helps protect your entire household. Flu season starts in September, so vaccinating kids now protects them throughout the school year.

Vaccinations against COVID-19 are also important for most children 6 months of age and older, according to the AAP. More than 42,000 American children have been hospitalized due to COVID since the start of the pandemic, and thousands more have suffered from inflammation of the heart, prolonged COVID, and other sequelae.

Fortunately, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved for use in children. Pfizer’s vaccine comes in a series of three vaccinations over a total of three months, while Moderna’s vaccine is two vaccinations given four weeks apart. It is safe for children to receive the COVID vaccination at the same time as their other vaccines. Ask your provider about the COVID vaccination for your children.

“Vaccines are one of the most important things we do in pediatrics,” Couillard said. “No vaccine is risk-free and parents always have to decide, but vaccines are really safe and effective.” My own children are fully vaccinated against COVID and any other disease they can be vaccinated against.”

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