By, Mary Helen Young, MD FAAP
Regular well-child visits to your pediatrician are important in laying a good foundation for the overall health of your child. Childhood is a unique period of time that shapes a person’s physical, social, and mental health throughout his/her life. Therefore, well-visits should start right after birth and continue through infancy, childhood, and adolescence, until your child transitions to a doctor who sees adult patients.
During comprehensive well-visits, the doctor tracks your child’s growth and development, including measuring weight, height, and head circumference. The pediatrician follows the measurements on a growth chart to make sure that your child is developing appropriately. In addition, developmental milestones (physical and psychological) are reviewed to determine if the child is developing in the normal range for a child of his/her age. Hearing, vision, an autism screening for toddlers and depression screening for adolescents, vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, and body mass index, and labs such as lead, hemoglobin & cholesterol are also done in some of these visits. If abnormalities are detected, treatment or further evaluation might be needed.
These well-visits are also for preventative measures: your pediatrician discusses the diseases/illness that can be prevented by immunizations, and your child gets his/her immunizations to prevent these illnesses. Nutrition, sleep, behavior, and safety at home and at school are also discussed.
Well-visits are a great opportunity to ask about general concerns you have concerning your child’s health and development. These visits with your pediatrician are a valuable tool in making sure that your child is healthy and stays healthy, as well as helping to foster a strong and trusted relationship between your family and the doctor.