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Is Your Child on Track for a Healthy Fall?

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
Kevin Turner, MD gives his young patient a high five

Whether your child will go to a daycare, a classroom or a college campus this fall, now is the time to check wellness visits and immunizations off your to-do list.

“Some parents wonder if well-child visits are really needed,” says Eva Johnson, MD, pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “It helps to keep in mind that these visits are an opportunity to prevent health problems or catch them early, when they may be easier to treat. It’s also a great time to ask questions, raise concerns and, of course, get any required forms completed.”

Well-Child Visits

Recommended for infants, children, teens and young adults, these checkups allow your child’s healthcare provider to:

  • Perform a physical exam and important screenings.
  • Offer recommended immunizations (shots).
  • Track their physical, emotional and social development.

Over time, some aspects of the visits will change along with your child’s age and needs. Here are a few things to know as they grow.

What to Expect: Newborn to 30 Months

For the first year and a half of your child’s life, you may feel like you visit their pediatrician more than your own friends. Every few weeks or months, you’re going to the doctor’s office for a well-child visit.

“It may seem like these appointments are too frequent. But the truth is that regular well-child visits are extremely important,” assures Dr. Johnson. A baby’s first well-child visit should take place when they’re 3 to 5 days old. By 15 months, they should have had more than six checkups.

These visits are a time when the pediatrician will measure your child’s growth and conduct a head-to-toe physical exam. Your child may receive vaccines to protect them from illnesses. And there are screenings for lead exposure (12 and 24 months), vision and hearing problems, and more. Formal autism spectrum disorder screenings will also be done (18 and 24 months).

Finally, you and your child’s pediatrician might talk about bedtime routines, car seat safety or food. The provider may ask about your child’s speech and learning. And you’ll talk about key milestones.

What to Expect: Older Children

The good news? “Well-child visits become much less frequent as your child gets older,” says Dr. Johnson. “By age 3, visits will now be needed just once a year. But they will still offer essential care.”

At these visits, Dr. Johnson says you can expect something called anticipatory guidance. This means that the provider will talk with you and your child about important issues that are coming up soon.

So, if your child is just hitting bike-riding age, you might discuss helmet safety. For older children, you might cover the dangers of smoking. Your child’s pediatrician can offer tips and tools for dealing with these issues and can be a great resource for helpful advice.

Well-Child Visit Milestones by Age

Ages 3 – 6: Your provider will also continue asking about how your child is playing, learning, speaking, acting, and moving. This helps determine if they’re on track with developmental milestones or uncover delays that may need further assessment.

What else can you expect?

  • Age 3 kicks off routine vision and blood pressure screenings.
  • Age 4 means your child is due for a hearing test and another dose of several recommended immunizations.
  • Age 5 often marks the start of kindergarten. Your provider can help make sure your child’s immunization record is up-to-date and meets school requirements.
  • Age 6 is a good time to talk about safety. Children’s increasing independence can put them at risk for accidental injuries. Use their latest height and weight to confirm they’re in the right car seat.

Ages 7 – 21: Annual well-child visits help older kids stay on a healthy path. You’ll talk about physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, puberty and how things are going at school, at home, and in extracurricular activities.

Believe it or not, kids this age can also have high cholesterol. Screenings begin between ages 9 and 11. Your child should also start their meningococcal (MenACWY) and human papillomavirus (HPV) shots and get a tetanus booster shot between ages 11 and 12.

For adolescents, it’s important your teen, who is growing in independence, and your teen’s provider have time for confidential conversations during their check-up to address issues like smoking, alcohol and drugs, sexual activity and depression. Their doctor may suggest screenings for HIV, chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Make sure young adults know and meet the requirements of the college or technical school they’ll be attending.

Making a Medical History

Choosing a primary care provider (PCP) while your child is young—then seeing that same provider for all their wellness visits and sick visits—helps them build a medical home.

“Families often express appreciation for seeing a provider who knows them, and providers love the chance to see children and families grow and develop from infancy to young adulthood. This continuity is also linked to better health outcomes.” says Dr. Johnson. A provider who knows your child and their medical history can be especially helpful during times of stress or change, like puberty.

“At these visits, your job is to share information and ask questions, continues Dr. Johnson. Think about recent big milestones your child achieved. Be ready to discuss challenges. To prepare ahead of time, it may help to write down some of your most important topics or questions.

Related Links

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s has a wide network of highly skilled pediatricians at convenient locations across the region. Our specialists have the advanced training and experience to care for children of all ages and provide parents with the support and encouragement they need. Learn more.