Doctors aren’t just for when kids are sick. Well care visits ensure your child is happy, healthy and thriving. They’re also often the time and place kids get the vaccinations they need for school and to protect them from disease. Dan Nicklas, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s primary care-focused Child Health Clinic, says well care visits are important for children of all ages and their family.
Regular visits help us get to know you. We make sure all systems are working, so to speak, but we also serve as a sounding board and educational resource for both you and your child. – Dr. Nicklas
He says that kind of relation can help pediatricians give quality care. In other words, if you pediatrician knows what your child is like when they’re healthy, they can offer care when something is wrong.
That’s true during a pandemic, too.
The demand to prioritize every trip out of the house means many parents are asking how important well care visits really are. For pediatric health experts, the answer is simple: very important, especially because vaccinations protect kids from many potential deadly diseases, like measles, polio and the flu.
If you’re worried about the risk of spreading the virus, call your pediatrician’s office to ask about new policies they have in place, including protective equipment. Many practices also have innovative care options like video visits.
We would much rather see you than not see you. – says Dr. Nicklas
Here’s his breakdown of well care visits, and why kids need them by age:
Birth to 4
Babies need a lot of visits during the first year of their life. After that, trips to the pediatrician will start to slow down but are still just as important.
“A majority of vaccines happen during this time”, Dr. Nicklas says, “and especially for babies, who don’t have older kids’ natural immune defenses, those are essential for your child’s ongoing immunization against preventable diseases.”
Growth and Development
Your pediatrician uses well care visits to make sure your child’s development stays on track. These extensive physical checks are important because it helps them identify any potential problems early on.
Behavior and parenting
Your pediatrician can answer questions and offer advice on types of discipline that might work best for your child. They can also provide information on everything from childproofing to potty training.
Age 5 to 8
This age is about identifying challenges and helping kids do well in all aspects of their life.
Screening for disorders and health issues
Health concerns that might appear around this age could make school harder for your child, including minor conditions like trouble with eyesight or more serious conditions like asthma or heart issues.
Age 9 to 12
Your pediatrician can play a role in educating your child and your family about your child’s changing body and what it means.
All about puberty
“Try to help them understand that it’s how bodies typically develop,” say Dr. Nicklas. “We can help with that.”
Your child will also need another round of important vaccinations including tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis, or TDAP, shot as well as an HOV vaccine to prevent cancer and meningococcus vaccine.
Age 13 to 18
Assessing behavior, development and nutrition becomes just as important now as it was when they were toddlers, says Dr. Nicklas.
Evaluating social and emotional needs
Your pediatrician can be a great resource for you to get a better understanding your child’s mental health at this age. If a mental health screening might be right for your child, your pediatrician can offer you a referral.
Education on healthy lifestyle choices
Curiosity or pressure from friends can often lead teens to experience with things like cigarettes and vaping. Well care visits with your pediatrician may offer an opportunity to help your child understand the health risks associated with those behaviors. Your pediatrician can also help answer questions like how to talk about sex and how to increase physical activity and eat properly.