Why Well-Care Visits are as Important as Ever
Wellness checks, also known as well-care visits, provide an opportunity for routine health checkups with a pediatrician. During these visits, parents have the opportunity to make sure children are current on vaccinations for daycare or school and ensure kids are happy, healthy and thriving. Children’s Hospital Colorado pediatrician Dan Nicklas, MD, who works in the primary care-focused Child Health Clinic, says these visits are important for children of all ages.
“Regular visits help us get to know you,” Dr. Nicklas says. “We do a physical check of your child — blood pressure, eyes, ears and all that — to make sure all systems are working. But we also check in and touch base on other things like family life, school and behavior. We really serve as a sounding board and an educational resource for both you and your child.”
Such a relationship can help ensure your kid gets quality care, because when your pediatrician knows your child’s baseline for health, they can offer better care when something is wrong.
Well-care visits through the ages
Age 0 to 4
Babies need many visits during their first year of life, and while this cadence may slow down once they are a bit older, they remain just as important.
“A majority of vaccines happen during this time,” Dr. Nicklas says, “These are essential for your child’s ongoing immunization against preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough. It’s important to follow the recommended vaccine schedule, which is designed to give your child the best protection possible.”
Development and growth
At this age, children are growing and learning at high rates, and wellness visits ensure their development is steady and on track. Your pediatrician can offer nutrition recommendations when necessary to support proper height and weight development, and they’ll check your child’s hearing and vision.
Parenting and behavior
Being a parent to a young child can be difficult as they start to learn to communicate in new ways. “[That’s why] managing behavior and setting expectations is really important,” Dr. Nicklas says. Your pediatrician can talk with you about different types of discipline and answer questions you might have about what might work best for your child. They can also discuss things like childproofing, potty training, recommended amounts of screen time and more.
Age 5 to 8
This age is about both helping kids succeed in all aspects of their lives and identifying possible challenges they may face.
Growth and development remain important, but at this age, success in school is one key factor to watch. Your pediatrician help you determine how much sleep your child needs each night and how much exercise they should aim for. These two factors can affect how well your kid does in school.
Health disorder screening
From ages 5-8, your pediatrician will look for any health concerns that might appear and that could hinder progress in school for your child. This might be minor conditions like difficulties with eyesight or more serious conditions like asthma or heart issues. Your pediatrician will also focus on nutrition, and provide information on creating balanced meals.
Age 9 to 12
As your child gets a little older, their body will start to change. Your pediatrician can play an important role in giving your child helpful information about what’s happening and what it means for them.
“Have open discussions with your child about what’s going on with their body,” Dr. Nicklas suggests. “Try to help them understand that this is how bodies typically develop. It’s important to normalize it, and we can help you with that.”
At this time, your kid will need another round of vaccinations, including the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis, or TDAP, shot; the meningococcus vaccine; and the HPV vaccine, which protects against certain types of cancer.
Age 13 to 18
When your child transitions to their teen years, it is just as important that they attend well-care visits to assess behavior, development and nutrition.
Determining social and emotional needs
As a teen, your child is likely to seek increased independence. Even so, it’s important to be attentive to them and talk with them about factors that may be affecting their mental health. Your pediatrician can serve as a valuable resource in understanding some of those things, such as pressure at school and social media. What’s more, your pediatrician can help evaluate whether a mental health screening might be useful and offer a referral if needed.
Making healthy lifestyle choices
During this time, some teens become curious and experiment with new things, such as cigarettes and vaping. Visits with your pediatrician create an opportunity to share with your child some of the health risks associated with these behaviors. Your pediatrician can also help answer other questions you might have, like how to discuss sex with your kid, increasing physical activity and eating properly.
Visiting the pediatrician during the pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our relationships with healthcare visits, some parents have wondered whether they should continue scheduling well-care appointments for their kids. Our pediatric health experts say “yes.”
Providers have precautions in place to ensure families can safely continue these important visits. That’s because your child’s health and safety are your pediatrician’s top priority.
Many primary care providers now carry COVID-19 vaccines, and they’re available to answer any questions you may have about them.
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