BY DAVID BUICE
One of the most important things any parent can do for their child’s health is to schedule regular well-child visits with their pediatrician, in addition
to doctor visits when they are sick. A minor health issue today could become a major problem tomorrow if not addressed.
What is a Well-child Visit?
Sometimes called a checkup or a physical, a well-child visit is a medical exam given to children from newborn to late teens. Well-child visits enable your pediatrician to examine your child holistically, assess their physical and emotional needs, support their growth and development, and intervene quickly if they find any problems.
Schedule them at close intervals during your child’s first years of life, then once a year after your child has reached age three if they are healthy and don’t have any chronic medical conditions.
Risks of Skipping Well-child Visits
If your child is generally healthy, it’s easy to let well-child visits fall by the wayside, but pediatric specialists insist they are essential for various reasons, including to ensure your child gets the required vaccinations to go to daycare, attend school, and participate in sports.
Visiting your pediatrician when your child is well also gives you a chance to ask questions and get expert answers about your child’s health, development, and well-being. Additionally, many common developmental delays can be discovered during these routine visits,
and early intervention can make a significant
difference in getting your child essential care before something small turns into a much greater issue.
What to Expect During a Wellness Visit
Your child’s pediatrician will:
- Determine if your child is meeting growth and developmental milestones for their age.
- Evaluate your child’s sight and hearing. It’s important to catch these issues early.
- Ask about sudden changes in your child’s usual activities, mood, and overall health.
- Assess your child’s mental health, asking questions about how they are coping with school, friends, family, and any other outside influences.
- Provide immunizations for diseases and conditions that affect children and teens, such as measles and HPV.
- Give sports physicals to children who want to participate in competitive sports at school or in the community.
- Help your child establish healthy habits and provide tips for parents to reinforce these at home.
- Provide age- and behavior-based counseling to teens on topics such as depression and drug and alcohol use.
- Check on how your family is doing overall and help identify any supportive resources if needed.
Scheduling Well-child Visits
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this schedule for well-child appointments.
- Newborns – within two to five days
- Then at one, two, four, six, and nine months
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- Two years
- Two and a half years
- Three years and once a year after that
Finally, some children may need more frequent visits to manage ongoing medical problems, such as asthma, diabetes, or obesity, but these are in addition to their well-child appointments.
Well-child Visit Benefits
Regular well-child visits may seem like just another thing to include in your family’s already hectic schedule but skipping them can put your child at greater risk of illness or delay needed interventions.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the following are some of the benefits of regular well-child visits.
Prevention – Your child gets scheduled immunizations to prevent illness, and you can ask your pediatrician about nutrition, safety in the home and at school, and other matters
Tracking growth and development – See how much your child has grown since your last visit and talk with your doctor about their development. Discuss your child’s milestones, social behaviors, and learning.
Raising concerns – Make a list of topics to discuss with your child’s pediatrician, such as their development, behavior, sleep, and eating, or relations with other family members. Present your top three to five questions or concerns to the pediatrician at the start of the visit.
Team approach – Regular visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among pediatricians, parents, and children. The AAP supports well-child visits as a way for pediatricians and parents to serve the needs of children. This team approach helps develop optimal physical, mental, and social health of a child.
Younger children, understandably, may fear doctor visits. However, parents can ease some of these fears by “playing doctor” with a toy doctor’s kit and using age-appropriate books to teach children what will happen during their visit. Also, regular well-child visits show your child that each time they see the doctor doesn’t mean they always get a shot.