How often should your child see the doctor? Well-child visits start a lifetime of good health

By Kristy Bleizeffer Jan 5, 2015

baby checkup

Your baby should see the doctor three to five days after birth, and visit the doctor again for check-ups several more times before turning 1 year old. School aged children should get a well-child visit once per year.

Even if your child is healthy, it is important to bring him to the doctor for regular well-child visits. Well-child visits let your health provider check your child for health problems before they get serious.

Here, pediatric hospitalist Dr. Anne Scholl Moore tells us how regular well-child visits are the foundation for a lifetime of good health.

Q: How often are well-child checks needed?
A: Your infant is growing every day, and your baby’s doctor needs to track that growth. Your baby should see the doctor three to five days after birth, and visit the doctor again for check-ups at:

  • 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 1 year
  • 15 months
  • 18 months

After your child reaches age 2, make a well-child appointment once a year.

“I believe every school-age child should be seen once a year for their physical exam,” Moore said. “It’s good to evaluate your child’s growth and development, and also to review the best things in preventative health. For instance, in some children 10 years and older, if there is a family history of high cholesterol, we should start to monitor their lipid levels at an early age.”

Pediatric hospitalist Dr. Anne Scholl Moore examines a baby at Wyoming Medical Center.

Pediatric hospitalist Dr. Anne Scholl Moore examines a baby at Wyoming Medical Center.

Q: What happens in a well-child check?
A: The provider checks your child’s height, weight and growth. He or she will also test your child’s vision and hearing, administer vaccinations, and make sure your child’s heart and lungs are working well. They will also perform a complete physical exam from head to toe, including weight and height measurements.

“Often in children, linear growth correlates very strongly with overall health,” Moore said. “Your provider will also give anticipatory guidance. That means, if you have a 2-year-old, say, they will tell you what to expect over the next year.”

The well-child visit is also your chance to talk about other concerns you may have, including:

  • Skin care: Besides preventing sun burn, in our dry climate, moisturizing is important and your provider can help you establish a good skin care regimen.
  • Bowel habits: “A child’s bowel habits will follow them for the rest of their lives. Parents may think it is normal for a kid to only poop once a week, but we know that’s not normal,” Moore said.
  • Mental health: The visit is a good chance to talk about any mental health concerns you may have including ADHD, hyperactivity or depression. “A significant portion of our children show early onset or symptoms of mild depression and it’s so important to get on top of that,” Moore said. “We all have life events in our families that can affect a child. You may think it’s normal for them to be depressed for a period of time, and it may be, but there are also things we can do to help them get through periods of loss or grieving, whether it be a family member or a pet.”
  • Sleep, behavior or activity patterns: If you have any concerns, make note of them and ask your provider during the well-child visit.

Q: What about vaccinations?
A: Vaccines are often given at well-child visits. Ask which ones are needed and when, then be sure to keep appointments.

Your child gets many vaccines before age 1, but he or she will need more vaccines as a toddler, child and teen. All vaccines are important. They protect your children from serious—and deadly—illness.

“If you look at our country over the last 100 years, the only way that we have eliminated disease is through vaccination. Our antibiotics have largely quit working for us,” Moore said.

Take whooping cough which can be deadly in young children. The only treatment is prevention. There have been sizable outbreaks of whooping cough across the country because of lack of vaccination and measles has been on the rise, Moore said.

“The problem with whooping cough is you don’t know you have it until you start whooping, which is about 7 to 10 days into the illness, at which point you are coughing to the point of passing out or throwing up. You’ve already exposed those around you.”

Q: But, I’ve heard that vaccines actually cause illnesses in some children, or can contain harmful additives?
A: Numerous studies have not supported these concerns, Moore said. Improvements in the vaccines have also minimized side effects.

For example, the Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis), did cause some side effects in isolated cases, Moore said, but the latest version has a lower and more purified dose of the whooping cough (Pertussis) germ so the chances of reaction are much lower.

“Our current vaccines are exceedingly safe and are lead free,” Moore said.

Q: When is a good time to schedule your well-child visits.
A: Anytime you can remember to schedule them. A lot of people get stuck in the habit of scheduling their well-child visits before the start of school.

“I think it starts in kindergarten because their kids can’t enter kindergarten without the sufficient number of shots,” Moore said. “But I think it’s easier just to remember your child’s birthday and have an appointment on or around that day.”

Dr. Moore is medical director of the pediatric hospitalist program at Wyoming Medical Center. Whe  She was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated cum laude from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) with a degree in general science. She completed her internship and residency at Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill, N.C. She has worked in Denver with Kaiser Permanente, always in association with Children’s Hospital Colorado. Outside of medicine, her main interests are horseback riding and therapeutic riding.

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