We may hope others conveniently “forget” our birthdays as we get older, but as parents, a child’s birthday is one thing we never over-look. Once the birthday festivities have quieted down, it’s time to start thinking about your child’s annual pediatric check up.
Most people think there are three reasons to bring a child to the doctor: when a child is sick– otherwise known as a “sick visit”, when a child needs a sports physical form, or when a child needs one or more vaccinations. While these are certainly good reasons to make a check up appointment, there is much more that goes into a check up, or wellness visit.
One of the reasons I love being a pediatrician is the focus on education and preventative care. I’ve found it much easier to encourage the development of healthy habits in childhood. Some of these pre-ventative discussions can be addressed during sick visits, but can be addressed more thoroughly during wellness visits.
Many believe if their child is seeing a pediatrician regularly for sick visits, there is no need to make an extra, annual wellness visit. But this is how small things can be missed! During sick visits, a physician is generally focused on diagnosing the problem and finding a treatment plan. For wellness exams, the mind set of a physician is much different– as they evaluate your child’s health as a whole. Your pediatrician takes your child’s growth and development into consideration, in conjunction with his or her overall health during the last year, along with any family history concerns. This allows a pediatrician to give better proactive care to your child.
Puberty is another consideration during check ups. If puberty is beginning too soon (it is sometimes subtle and missed by parents at home or even physicians on sick visits), then it may be too late to identify and correct if they have not been in for check ups in 2-3 years. On the flip-side, if puberty begins too late, it could also indicate other underlying issues that could be of concern and need ad-dressing.
The check up is also the best time to ask your doctor questions about everyday parenting and what to expect before the next visit in regard to your child’s development. If you have concerns, or if your child is struggling in school, this is a good time to bring it up.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual check-ups between the ages of 2 and 18, with more frequent visits before a child turns 2. So when it’s time to think about that next birthday, add a wellness visit with your child’s pediatrician to the to-do list. In the meantime, enjoy the party!