New backpack, check. Fresh school supplies, check.

As a new school year begins, make sure you schedule a physical. Even if the school doesn’t require it this year, an annual wellness exam is the best way to detect health problems before they become more difficult to treat.

Children can change a lot in a single year, making regular checkups essential. Your physician can be a great resource for questions about your child’s development, sleep, eating habits or behavior.

During an annual exam, a physician may evaluate:

Immunization status – Is your child fully up to date on required or recommended vaccines? Schools can provide optimal conditions for transmitting diseases. With the re-emergence of diseases like whooping cough and measles, keeping your child vaccinated helps them stay healthy.

Long-term vitals – Your physician will track your child’s development and detect emerging problems by monitoring vitals like blood pressure and weight, building a comprehensive health record. With childhood obesity at record levels, early intervention can put your child on the right track with diet and exercise, potentially avoiding diabetes and other complications. You can also ask whether additional vision or hearing tests are needed to prepare your child for classroom success.

Sports fitness – School athletic programs require an exam before students can join a team. Participating in sports helps kids stay healthy, develop strong fitness habits and learn teamwork. If your child has expressed interest in a sport, schedule an exam at least six weeks before tryouts to allow time to address any concerns before the season.

Emotional and developmental concerns – A teenager who has an established relationship with a physician is more likely to discuss drinking, drugs, sexual activity or depression. A physician can notice potential trouble and serve as a trusted, neutral adult who can offer guidance and necessary referrals.

Find a physician near you and schedule an appointment for your child before you get swept into the school day routine. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting