Living Well: Summer is the time for child annual wellness checkups
Did you know that your children should see their primary care physician every year through the age of 21, and even more frequently up until age 2 ½?
The Bright Futures/American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed a set of comprehensive health guidelines for well-child care, known as the “periodicity schedule.” It is a schedule of screenings and assessments recommended at each well-child visit from infancy through adolescence.
The schedule of well-child visits is:
The first week visit (3 to 5 days old)
1 month old
2 months old
4 months old
6 months old
9 months old
12 months old
15 months old
18 months old
2 years old (24 months)
2 ½ years old (30 months)
Ages 3 to 21, once a year, every year
The Benefits of Well-Child Visits
- Prevention. Your child gets scheduled immunizations to prevent illness. You also can ask your pediatrician about nutrition and safety in the home and at school.
- Tracking growth and development. See how much your child has grown in the time since your last visit, and talk with your doctor about your child’s development. You can discuss your child’s milestones, social behaviors and learning.
- Raising concerns. Make a list of topics you want to talk about with your child’s pediatrician such as development, behavior, sleep, eating or getting along with other family members. Bring your top three to five questions or concerns with you to talk with your pediatrician at the start of the visit.
- Team approach. Regular visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among pediatrician, parent and child. The AAP recommends well-child visits as a way for pediatricians and parents to serve the needs of children. This team approach helps develop optimal physical, mental and social health of a child.
Pediatric Care at MRH
Pediatric Providers Accepting New Patients
Dr. Linda Couillard
Dr. Larry Kipe
Kevin Monahan, PA-C
Julia von Allmen, PA-C
Tracey Wall, PA-C
Kelsie Bond, PA-C
Carol Bolt, PA-C
Memorial Regional Health would like to remind parents that child wellness checks, including sports physical exams for students participating in youth sports, are an essential part of preventative medicine for children.
“Too many kids stop coming in for wellness exams after their kindergarten vaccines, and we don’t see them again until they are ill,” said Dr. Linda Couillard, pediatrician and medical director of MRH Clinics. “Comprehensive wellness, anticipatory guidance and disease prevention are critical, and annual wellness plays such a big role.”
Why annual wellness matters
When you develop a relationship with a primary care provider, it allows that provider to follow your child’s progress and development over time, according to the The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP has a recommended schedule of wellness checkups for children (see factbox), but notes that children with developmental, psychosocial or chronic disease issues may require more frequent counseling and treatment in addition to preventative care visits.
“Back-to-school checkups, as they are commonly called, are often the only visit kids and teenagers have with their pediatrician every year,” according to the AAP. “The annual physical gives the pediatrician a chance to give the child a thorough physical exam that also addresses any emotional, developmental or social concerns.”
Dr. Couillard said pediatricians are working to reinforce the message that annual wellness exams are crucial to the overall health and development of all children. She said there’s been a national trend moving away from annual physicals which she finds alarming.
“The annual exam is a comprehensive assessment of all areas of a child’s growth, development, learning, social issues, diet, sleep, safety, and sometimes vision and hearing,” Dr. Couillard said. “We will soon be offering fluoride application for our younger patients (not to take the place of a dental visit). Vaccines, if needed, are updated, but even if vaccines are not needed, the importance of annual well child checks cannot be emphasized enough.”
An annual wellness checkup might find more complex medical issues for which the child might need to receive follow-up or specialty care. Dr. Couillard said the primary pediatrician can identify these needs and recommend the appropriate follow-up care. “Summer is a great time to do an annual wellness exam — the best time — and we recommend patients continue to come back every summer,” she said.
The only common illness that affects children and requires an antibiotic every time is strep throat. Doctors won’t prescribe antibiotics if your child is sick with the flu or a cold because the treatment would be useless for those conditions.