Frequently Asked Questions About Children's Physicals

Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions About Children's Physicals

Q: How often does my child need to go to the doctor?
A: A healthy child with no chronic medical problems should have a physical at least every two years after the age of five. Children with chronic underlying medical conditions should be seen at least once a year. Those conditions include:
  • Asthma
  • Recurring infections
  • Severe allergies
  • Children who use medications on a regular basis

Speak with your child's physician regarding how often your child should be seen.

Q: Is there a difference between well-child visits, physical exams and sports exams?

A: No, these are just different names for the same type of check-up. As kids get older, and are typically healthier, parents tend to forget the importance of regular exams. Appointments to renew a sports physical card or prepare for school are an excellent opportunity to make sure that your child is up-to-date on vaccinations and has no urgent health concerns that may have been overlooked.

Q: Why not wait until the end of the summer, since my child won't start sports until the fall?

A: Kids are not allowed to participate in sports, even practice sessions, without a signed Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association physical card, so physicians see a large number of students needing physicals each year. The busiest time of year is always right before school and sports practices start at the end of the summer.

Parents who delay scheduling these appointments until the last minute may have a hard time getting a convenient appointment time. Parents can avoid the rush altogether by scheduling those appointments for late spring and early summer while the clinics are less busy.

In addition, many summer camps require physical examinations, physician approval for participation in activities or, minimally, a current immunization record. Getting the appointment scheduled in the spring will leave more time for summer fun!

Learn more about the Activity Screen Pre-Visit History Form

Q: But if I schedule a sports physical this spring, will we have to renew it sooner?

A: A WIAA physical card signed by a physician after April 1 is good for the following two school years - therefore, a physical scheduled for May will remain in effect just as long as one scheduled in August.

Q: Do schools require physical examinations for students?

A: School physicals are recommended but not required upon entry into kindergarten and at either third and fifth grade, or fourth and seventh grade intervals.

Specific immunizations are required upon entry into certain grade levels. A yearly exam is an excellent time to ensure your child's immunization record is current.

Q: How can I schedule a physical for my child?

A: UW Health's Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and Family Medicine sections list several clinics you may call to schedule a check-up for your child.