Well Child Exams

Checking In and Checking Up

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child be seen on a regular basis all the way to age 21? It’s true!

Lauren Poull, MD

“There is a period of time between ages 5 and 11 years that families feel that a visit to their pediatric provider isn’t necessary. They’re no longer babies and toddlers and they’re not yet going through the physical, mental and emotional changes of adolescence,” said Dr. Lauren Poull, pediatrician at GraceMed Capitol Family Clinic.

The truth is, those visits to the pediatric provider that start when your child is young, are necessary throughout their developing years and are an important part of overall health. As parents, you know when your children are sick, they need to be seen by a healthcare provider. But what’s not as clear, especially as children get into elementary school and beyond, is how often and why children need to have regular check-ups.

Well-child examinations start at the hospital, when your baby is born. They continue at regular and lengthening intervals all the way to adulthood eventually becoming annual visits. While GraceMed pediatric providers see children through age 18, many pediatric practices see patients until age 21 before transitioning the patient to a physician who cares for adults.

During a well-child visit, your child is weighed and measured and a physical exam is done to check for anything out of the ordinary. Your provider will ask about developmental milestones and concerns you may have. In addition, every well-child check-up includes:

  • Checking vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate
  • Questions about the child’s diet, elimination and sleeping habits
  • Developmental milestone assessment
  • Immunizations
  • A review of safety, nutrition, family dynamics, and disciplinary guidance

In many homes, both parents work, so children must be left in the care of a childcare provider. In this case, your pediatric provider will need to complete a health assessment form that will be kept on file at the childcare center or home. This assessment assures the childcare providers that your child is not only in good health, but that he or she is also up to date on immunizations.

Back-to-school exams can be done at the same time as well-child visits but often occur during the summer months to address any concerns regarding the new school year. This is also a good time to review immunization records and get caught up on missing vaccines. And, if your child will be participating in school sports, the well-child visit can qualify as a sports physical as well. Just be sure to bring any required paperwork from the school.

These checkups are a great opportunity for you, as parents, to discuss your child’s development concerns. It’s also the perfect time to ask questions about behavior or mental health questions. Your pediatrician can be a resource for any parenting issues you may be facing as well.

By seeing your children regularly, your doctor will have a running history of their health and development which will help them recognize potential problems. The annual exams can detect illnesses and injuries that don’t have obvious symptoms. Plus, it’s pretty exciting for you, and your child, to see how much they have grown from one year to the next.

You and your pediatrician can build a trusting relationship that will extend to your child as he or she grows older. You’ll be able to work as a team to keep your child on the right track for physical and social development.

Linda Gobin, APRN, FNP-C

“The well-child visits help me to get to know the child and family on a personal level. This allows me to anticipate their needs.” said Linda Gobin, GraceMed Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, “The stronger the relationship I have with the child and the family, the better I can help recommend the best care for the child. Also, the child may enjoy coming to the visits more, as they learn to trust me, which helps build a successful relationship.”

That relationship can be an important asset in later years. As children age, they are more likely to discuss social and behavioral issues with a doctor they’ve grown to trust. “Starting at age 12, I spend time at each visit discussing the transition into adolescence and adulthood,” said Dr. Poull, “Over time this series of visits set the stage for teens to develop self-care strategies and to take on the responsibility of managing any chronic illnesses like asthma or diabetes.”

Older children have a moment to be the center of attention at these check-ups. They have the chance to have their specific concerns addressed as well. Don’t be surprised if your child’s doctor asks to speak with your teenager privately. They are only trying to give your child the opportunity to fully open up.

The new school year is fast approaching. If you haven’t already done so, make an appointment with your child’s pediatric provider. Be sure to write down any questions ahead of the visit, so you’ll remember to ask. And take full advantage of the opportunity to learn more about your child’s wellbeing and what you can do to help them grow up healthy.