With the days getting shorter, schools are preparing for throngs of students to once again rush through their halls. Some of those students, though, must rush to the doctor before they hit the school door.
In Illinois, students entering kindergarten or fifth or ninth grades -- or who are new to a school district -- are required to visit a doctor to ensure they are in good health and have all required immunizations.
``It's really a matter of preventive medicine,'' Sherrard School District nurse Patricia Hallberg said. ``These exams provide intervention.''
Doctors do more than just check a child's breathing and heart rate when administering the physical, Ms. Hallberg said. The tests are very specific and are meant to keep the number of casualties at school very low.
Children are tested for their hemoglobin count, number of red blood cells, and even for sickle cells if needed. Tests for asthma, diabetes and other potentially life-threatening illnesses also take place.
``Children who are coming into an Illinois school are given a physical that is more in-depth than a sports physical,'' Ms. Hallberg said. She also noted that any student who has been out of a district for a year or more must have the physical before entering school, regardless of age.
``We've had some students who have been out of the country for a year and come back,'' Ms. Hallberg said. ``These physicals are a way to check the child's health and to ensure the health of the other children.''
Required immunizations are checked to make sure shots, such as those for polio, have been completed within the established time frame and boosters administered if needed. Doctors are required to check immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella -- or MMR -- the Hepatitis B series, and diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, or DPT.
``The physician has to complete the form for the physical, and we can't accept forms that are filled out by chiropractors,'' Ms. Hallberg said. ``Many people don't know that we can't accept those.''
Students who haven't been examined aren't allowed to enroll in school.
Parents who can't afford the cost of having a family physician perform the physical can take part in the Link Clinic program at Illini Hospital in Silvis. ``Parents pay only what they can afford there,'' Ms. Hallberg said. ``It is really a very good program.''
Ms. Hallberg said a manual soon will be available to all schools in the Sherrard district explaining the physical and what is needed. It will give some form to what might be labeled organized chaos right now, she said.
``With this manual, we will all be on the same page as far as preventive medicine in our schools is concerned.''