Why kids of all ages need a yearly well-child visit
Children often need to go to the pediatrician when sick, but regular visits with a pediatric provider are essential to their overall good health — even when there's no runny nose to be heard.
These types of routine visits are called well-child visits, and your child will benefit from having them as they grow up.
When your child is an infant or a toddler, they'll need frequent well-child visits to the pediatrician. Some of these visits will ensure your child remains on schedule with needed vaccines, while others help track if your child is growing at a healthy pace. Their medication history, if relevant, will also be managed during these visits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends well-child visits for kids at:
- 3 to 5 days old
- 1 month old
- 2 months old
- 4 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
- 12 months old (1 year)
- 15 months old
- 18 months old
- 24 months old (2 years)
- 30 months old (2.5 years)
During these visits, your provider will track the development of your child, along with looking for vision or hearing problems and other developmental issues.
Starting at 3 years (36 months), your child can transition to annual well-child visits. Many kids get these before going back to school every fall to keep updated with yearly flu shots. Other things your pediatrician will monitor during these visits may include:
- Blood sugar level
- Dental health
- Iron levels
These annual visits are an excellent time to ask your pediatrician about any development concerns you have. Also consider discussing your child's diet, especially if they are a picky eater.
School-age children are more active and self-sufficient, but they still have developmental milestones to hit before puberty. Many of these involve your child's social and emotional learning skills. Your pediatrician can tell you if your kid's behavior is age-appropriate, along with continuing to keep up with needed screenings and vaccines.
As your child enters puberty, starting at about age 11, your provider may check for signs of scoliosis (a curvature of the spine that can become prominent in puberty). As your child's body shows signs of puberty, your provider may ask questions to evaluate whether everything is going the way it should. Your child may also have questions about menstruation, growth spurts, body hair, and other changes they may be experiencing.
The preteen years are when children should get vaccinated for HPV and meningitis. The HPV vaccine protects against genital warts and several types of cancer, including cervical cancer, oral cancer, and penile cancer. The vaccine is most effective if it's received before children are sexually active.
Although getting your teen to go to the pediatrician might be a challenge, it's crucial they regularly visit their provider for well-child visits. Their provider still needs to track growth and developmental changes on an annual basis, but mental health concerns are also an important part of these check-ups. Talk to your child's pediatrician if your teen shows signs of:
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse
These visits are also a great time to make sure your teen knows about birth control, sexually transmitted infections, and the risks of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use. You may want to leave your teen alone with the pediatrician to ensure they have the privacy to ask questions about health or relationship issues that may be bothering them.
Don't forget lead screening
Lead poisoning can significantly impact brain development in young children. If you live in a house or housing development built before 1978, live with someone who works with lead, or recently immigrated from another country, your child is at risk for lead exposure and might need to be tested. Your pediatrician can tell you if testing is needed for your child. This test involves a simple blood draw.
If your child is enrolled in Medicaid, lead testing is required at 12 months and again at 24 months. If you have no record of testing, your child should be tested at least once between ages 2 and 6.
Reid Health pediatric providers take a team approach to caring for kids at every age and stage. Schedule a well-child appointment today.