Regular checkups are an important way to keep track of your child’s health and physical, emotional and social development. These visits are important for ALL children, including children and youth with special healthcare needs who may also be under the care of specialists. Think of these visits as your chance to learn as much as you can about the best ways to help your child grow. By focusing on your child’s growth and learning, both you and your healthcare provider make sure your child is developing as expected.
Valley pediatrician Sean Verlander, MD shares the value of well child visits in keeping children healthy and on track as they grow and development.
0:21 | What are well child visits?
A well child visit allows us to assess a child’s overall health. We perform a physical exam, take vital signs, check growth and development, and go over any concerns a family may have. These visits may also include things like vaccinations or screening tests, depending on the patient and other risk factors involved.
1:00 | Why are well child visits important?
Well child visits help us know if children are healthy. If there is a concern that comes up during the appointment, we want to look into it and provide support in areas where they’re needed. For instance, if there’s a family history of diabetes, and based on the child’s health, it may be perfectly reasonable to do a test that screens for diabetes to reassure the family that everything is going okay.
1:42 | What is the recommended frequency for well child visits?
Early on, children are going through a lot of growth and development, so visits occur a little bit more often. In kids under the age of 18 months, it’s about every two to three months, and then it spaces out a little bit. For children two and up, it’s typically about once a year, although some providers will also see a child for a two and a half year well check.
2:11 | What are some important milestones and that providers look at in well child visits?
In general, with the younger babies, we see big, bright smiles around two months of age. In our four-month olds, we see babbling and cooing. We see rolling over at six months and by 12 months, we’re seeing first steps and first words.
Two-year-olds are working on fine motor skills: stacking blocks on top of other blocks and walking upstairs. Three and four-year-olds continue building on all of the gross motor, fine motor, and social/emotional skills. In our school-age children, we see a lot of learning how to co-exist in a world that’s outside the home. This includes learning at school, but also the social development to interact with others and hopefully growing to be healthy, functioning adults.
3:19 | During the pandemic, some kids weren’t able to get their scheduled vaccinations, particularly kids who are ages 11 through 12. What recommendations do you have for parents and caregivers about that?
COVID has definitely put us in a difficult situation. Despite knowing that COVID is a serious public health threat, we also knew that ignoring other aspects of a child’s health is not great. As a result, we took great pride in creating and implementing policies that allowed us to see patients safely. Since June 2020, we’ve been seeing all ages for preventive care and well visits.
Because of COVID, we’ve noticed a decline in vaccination rates for things like the tetanus booster, which typically is given at the age 11 visit, but also other vaccines as well. In response, we’re focusing on getting kids caught up on the vaccines that will continue to keep them as safe as possible.
4:32 | Can well child visits be done by telehealth appointments?
There are certainly some things we can achieve through telehealth. For instance, we can speak to the families about their concerns, and if they have a phone camera, we may be able to assess things like a rash. Unfortunately, there are some things we can’t do in a telehealth visit, like listening to the heart and lungs, measuring a patient’s blood pressure, giving vaccinations, or doing screening tests that require having blood drawn. So, while telehealth is a great asset, it has limits when it comes to well child visits.
5:39 | What types of providers can do well child visits?
In the past, these have been performed by doctors in pediatrics or family medicine, (people with MD or DO behind their name). Now, we’re seeing more advanced practice providers take on the role as well. These are people who have training in taking care of pediatric patients like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, (people with ARNP or PA-C behind their name).
6:12 | What other recommendations do you have for families to help keep their kids healthy?
It’s important to recognize that it takes a community to have a healthy, well-developing child. It takes at least one parent, other adult caregivers, extended family members, the medical team, etc., to provide some reassurance when necessary, and further investigation when it’s needed. I always tell families that I like to address something when it’s a mole hill–before it becomes a mountain–but that’s what preventive care is all about.
Looking for a primary care provider for your child? Check out Valley’s family medicine, primary care providers and pediatricians serving a clinic near you. valleymed.org/drfinder