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For most people, the doctor's office a place we try to avoid unless we are sick. Even then, our lives are so busy that it's hard to even get to clinic during business hours; so, why would we go in for a visit when everything appears fine? What we miss by forgoing these regular check-ups is preventative health care — a chance to make sure that things are going well, catch things before they become a real issue, and help patients learn to expect health changes and issues that might occur in the near future. For kids, these regular check-ups are even more vital and make up a large percentage of the kids that pediatricians see in clinic on a daily basis.
The well-child check is an opportunity for pediatricians to see your child regularly, to get to know them, and monitor their growth and development. The early years of life are extremely important because our brains are continuing to grow. This is the reason that we don't start walking right away after birth like other animals. Instead, we gradually gain the ability to lift our heads, sit up, reach for objects, and eventually walk.
We recommend routine well-child checks in the first few days of life, 2 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months, and then on a yearly basis.
So, what exactly happens during these well-child check-ups?
Generally, the first step is a height, weight, and blood pressure that the nurse or medical assistant will do. Then, the doctor, nurse, or medical assistant will ask a series of questions about your child. Some typical questions include:
How is your child doing overall? (This is a good time to ask the doctor any questions that you have.)
What is he/she eating and drinking?
How are they sleeping?
Are they saying words? How many?
Are they crawling? Standing? Walking?
Who all lives at home?
For older kids, the doctor will often ask the child questions about school, reading, or ask them to demonstrate a skill such as naming colors, counting, or balancing on one foot.
The well-child check is also an opportunity to address any concerns that you might have about your child such as how they are doing in school, issues with eyesight, behavioral issues, or dietary concerns. Pediatricians are very used to talking about these topics and more with parents and offering advice or sending them to another provider who can help more. Please know that we would much rather spend time answering your questions or concerns rather than our "checklist."
The well-child check is also a chance to provide vaccinations including the annual influenza vaccine. We recommend vaccines to all of our patients unless there is a medical reason against receiving a vaccine because vaccines can prevent infections that can cause serious illness or even death. Your pediatrician can answer questions you might have about vaccines.
In short, there is a lot that happens during a well-child visit even with kids are perfectly healthy. They provide a chance for parents and kids to ask questions, for your doctor to check how your child is doing, and to make sure they are up to date on all of their immunizations. Don't miss out, and make the best possible use of these checkups!