It’s tempting to put well checks, immunizations and doctor visits on hold with COVID-19. But if you’re a parent, I don’t need to tell you how fast children grow – physically and emotionally. And your questions and concerns grow right along with them. This is why well child visits are so important. Well child visits help:
Prevent illness and injury.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following immunization schedule for youth ages 18 and younger. Immunizations are designed to prevent illness. Well child visits are also a great time to discuss general safety in your home or child’s day care or school to prevent injury. For example, your pediatrician can be a resource on car seat safety and your state’s laws, or maybe you’re a brand new parent and want to make sure you’ve baby proofed every last cabinet, blind, window and outlet in your home.
Track growth and development.
At well visits, your child’s height, weight, head circumference and milestones are recorded. This allows your pediatrician to track their growth and development and identify any problems. Hearing, vision and other screening tests may be a part of the visit as well.
Are you worried about your child’s size? Or maybe you have a picky eater, or you’re convinced they will still be wearing diapers when they are 5. Well child visits are the perfect time to discuss these, and other issues, with your pediatrician. Jot down your questions throughout the year in the Notes app on your phone. And remember, physical health is just as important as mental health. Maybe you’ve noticed your child is quieter than usual, or has lost interest in some of the things they used to love doing. Talk to your doctor about it. Maybe it’s normal pre-teen or teen behavior, and maybe it’s not. Your provider can help you get to the root of the problem, or refer you to someone who can help.
It’s important to find a provider early in your child’s life that you like and connect with. After all, you will see them at least once a year, and in most cases, more often, for at least the next 18 years of your life. Going to the same provider for every visit – sick and well – builds trust and creates consistency. The better your doctor knows your child and their medical history, and your family’s values, the better care they can provide.
Attending well visits regularly over the course of your child’s growing up years also helps them transition to adult care when the time comes. With the help of your pediatrician, you’re modeling what a doctor-patient relationship should be, and demonstrating how being proactive can lead to a healthier life.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your list of questions for your next visit, or get that next appointment scheduled now!
Dr. Emily is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus.
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