Back to School: Health Checks
Friday, September 06, 2019

Whether your child is starting school for the first time or about to graduate, back-to-school time is a good opportunity for parents or guardians to check up on their little ones’ health and make sure they are protected against common childhood conditions.


First on the list should be vaccinations. Contact the local school board or GP if you are unsure about what vaccinations your child needs to have depending on their age.

General health check up

A general health check up or a “well child visit” will generally include an assessment of your child’s physical and psycho-social/behavioural development and answering any questions you may have.

During a well-child exam, vision and hearing are checked in children ages three and older. Doctors check vitals, which include height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate, to make sure everything is normal. Diet, exercise, school, development and anything that is relevant to the growth and well-being of the child is also discussed.

These back-to-school check-ups are often the only time most children and teens visit their paediatrician. These visits help doctors find any potential health problems as well as update their medical records for recent illnesses or vaccinations.

Colds & flu

At back to school time, many children (and consequently their parents), will be exposed to numerous viral infections such as coughs, colds and flu that can be easily spread in classrooms, playgrounds and within the home.

If you or your child has as a cough, cold or the flu, you may not need an antibiotic from your doctor. Taking antibiotics for a viral illness, such as a cold or flu, is of no benefit to the individual.  Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed means that they won’t work when you really need them for a serious infection.

Dr. Fidelma Fitzpatrick, Consultant Microbiologist and HSE Clinical Lead for the Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infection, says:

“Antibiotics have revolutionised the way we treat patients with serious infections and have saved many lives since their introduction in the middle of the last century. However, antibiotics are sometimes taken unnecessarily for infections such as colds and flu where they have absolutely no benefit for the individual. Using antibiotics when we don’t really need them leads to the person building up a resistance to antibiotics: when they really need an antibiotic for a serious illness, an antibiotic may not work.”

Dr Nuala O’Connor, General Practitioner and ICGP Lead on Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance, has the following tips for colds and flus:

  • Treat the symptoms of colds and flus and be aware of the average length of time it takes to clear a viral infection (see below).Of course, if you are worried or if you or your child has an underlying illness, always talk to your GP first.
  • The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is to drink plenty of fluids and get some rest
  • You can give paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve headache, aches and pains and fever. Your local pharmacist can give advice about over-the-counter remedies. 

If your children are taking medicines for other conditions you must check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking other over the counter remedies. 

Common infections

The length of time you can expect most common infections to last is:

  • Ear infection: approximately 4 days
  • Sore throat: approximately 1 week
  • Common cold (runny nose): approximately 1½ weeks
  • Sinus infection: approximately 2½ weeks
  • Cough (which often happens after a common cold) approximately 3 weeks

Other common conditions that children tend to contract in school are conditions such as headlicescarlet fever; slapped cheek disease; hand, foot and mouth disease and chicken pox. Check out our articles on each of these conditions for more information on symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Pop into your local CarePlus Pharmacy if you need any more advice or are not sure whether you need to see your GP. Our friendly Pharmacists will be on hand to help you.