There are lots of reasons you may need to get a physical examination. Here are just a few:
- Annual health care maintenance
- Vaccinations/immunizations updates
- Sports participation
- Going to camp
- School physical
- College entrance physicals
- Working papers—in New York State, anyone under 18 must show an employment certificate before they may start work. Many people call them “working papers.”
Check with your local Department of Education or school system to see when a physical is required. Many school systems require proof of immunizations at certain ages or when you change from one school to another.
What Happens in a Physical Examination?
Your doctor uses a physical exam to check that you are healthy and find out if you are having any problems or need vaccinations. Most school physicals require that you or your parent or guardian bring records of your immunizations with you. The doctor will ask about your personal health history. That includes whether you have chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes and how those are being treated. They will ask whether you are on any medications. The doctor will ask if you have or have had any heart problems, disabilities, or behavioral or mental health disorders. They will measure your height and weight, and calculate your BMI, body mass index, which is a measure of body fat in relation to your height.
Your doctor will check your vital signs: temperature, blood pressure, heart rate (heart beats per minute) and respiratory rate (the number of breaths you take per minute). They will check parts of your body that could show signs of existing health issues. The doctor will examine your head, eyes, chest, abdomen, your hands and feet. They will observe how you move and speak. The doctor will also use tools to look in your eyes, ears, nose and throat, and listen to your heart and lungs. They may touch parts of your body to feel for any problems, test your reflexes, and examine your private parts. Some physical exams like school physicals may also include vision and hearing tests, and checking your teeth for signs of decay. For sports participation, physical exams will have emphasis on the cardiac and musculoskeletal components.
Depending on your age and condition, your doctor may also draw blood for lab tests. These can show signs that there are issues with your kidneys, liver, blood chemistry, and immune system. Based on your personal sexual history, the doctor may suggest regular screening for STIs. Many exams now include a depression screening, since many people aren’t aware of the symptoms of depression.
Where to Get a Physical Examination
Your family doctor can perform a physical exam. Your family’s health insurance may cover at least part of the cost of a physical. If you or your family are covered by Medicaid, certain health screenings and vaccinations are free of charge at doctors and clinics that accept Medicaid. If your school or university requires a physical exam, ask them where you can get a physical at no charge or at a reduced fee.
Young people who are 10-26 years old and live in the New York City area can come to Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for physicals. We also provide routine health care, sexual and reproductive health services, mental health services, and optical care. Call 212-423-3000 to make an appointment for a physical. The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center sees all patients, regardless of ability to pay.
Here in New York City, over 345 schools are served by school based health centers, which provide primary care and preventive health services to students at no charge.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.