How to Prepare for a DOT Physical

Commercial drivers need to be medically re-examined every 12-24 months to ensure they are fit to perform their job safely. But nobody likes to visit the doctor. Even drivers that have been in the industry for years may dread the thought of an upcoming DOT physical. Here at I & O Medical Centers, we understand this apprehension, and we’ve put together three tips regarding how to prepare for a DOT physical.

1. Prepare Yourself Mentally.

If the thought of going to the doctor makes your blood pressure rise, you’re not alone. “White coat syndrome” is the tendency for a person’s anxiety surrounding a doctor’s visit to elevate their blood pressure readings while at the doctor’s office.

Stress can lead to higher-than-normal blood pressure. Therefore, one way to prepare for your physical is to relieve or prevent excess stress. This means:

  • Relax before your exam. Try to perform activities that you find calming, such as reading, deep breathing, or spending time in nature.
  • Give yourself plenty of time before and after your appointment. You don’t want to be anxious about rushing to or from another commitment.
  • Factor in enough time to get to your appointment. Take into account potential traffic delays, stops for gas, and other circumstances. Stay calm on the road — you don’t want road rage impacting your results! 

2. Prepare Yourself Physically.

The second tip for how to prepare for a DOT physical is to prepare your body physically. As mentioned above, blood pressure is checked during the physical. But stress is not the only factor that can affect it. The foods and drinks you consume can also impact your blood pressure. 

A diet high in caffeine and sodium elevates your blood pressure. If you eat these things in the 24 hours prior to your exam, your blood pressure will be elevated as a result, perhaps up to 20 points higher! You don’t want to unnecessarily inflate your results right before your exam. If you already have borderline high blood pressure, an energy drink before your appointment could be just enough to push you over the upper limit and prevent you from passing the exam.  

So, before your physical, try to eat foods and drink beverages that are low-sodium, and low-caffeine.

However, it’s important that you don’t make superficial changes just to try and pass the test. If your daily diet normally consists of coffee and potato chips, you can’t stuff yourself with a kale salad right before your appointment just to pass the exam. It doesn’t work and won’t do you any favors. If your lifestyle is unhealthy, we encourage you to make lifestyle changes. 

Other ways to prepare yourself physically are to get plenty of sleep the night before, and drink water before your appointment (you’ll need to provide a urine sample for the physical).

3. Prepare Your Paperwork.

As with any exam, there will always be paperwork! In this case, you want to be prepared to bring all necessary health information with you to your appointment. This may include the following considerations:

  • Bring a list of your prescription medications, along with dosage information and when you take them.
  • If a new or different doctor is conducting your exam, you’ll want to bring your medical records from your old or primary doctor.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, diabetes, or another condition, bring your medical records and recent lab reports from any specialists you see. For sleep apnea, also bring any available data from your CPAP machine.
  • The DOT Medical Examination Report Form is available online. To save time at the doctor’s office, fill out the form before your appointment and bring it with you. 

And, while not technically paperwork, you also want to bring eyeglasses, contact lenses, and hearing aids if you require them to drive, since you’ll need to pass a hearing and vision test.

Preparation is Key!

As the leader in occupational medicine in Hampton Roads, I & O Medical Centers is one of your trusted partners in health and safety. We routinely conduct DOT physicals at each of our four medical centers across Hampton Roads. Our doctors are well versed in the requirements for passing a DOT Physical, and we want the best outcomes for everyone. We hope these tips will be helpful the next time you are wondering how to prepare for a DOT physical. The more prepared you are, the more smoothly the process will go!