New parents feel great pride in taking their baby to the doctor’s office for frequent checkups, watching as their baby grows and thrives, and tracking developmental milestones together with their pediatrician. As the time between visits lengthens and the list of regularly scheduled vaccines shortens, this relationship starts to change.
Parents of school-age children tend to put annual checkups on the backburner, only taking their kids to the doctor if something is wrong. However, it’s very important to maintain well-child checks on a yearly basis. Lauren Shepard, D.O., a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Katy, walks you through what to expect at your child’s checkup.
When to schedule
Well-child visits can be scheduled anytime – at the beginning of the school year, during the holidays or around your child’s birthday, for example. However, be sure to schedule the visits approximately 12 months apart so the pediatrician has information to compare to from the year before.
Your child’s height and weight will still be plotted on a growth chart, and his or her body mass index (BMI) will be calculated. This information provides great insight into how your child is developing, especially as pediatricians are seeing more obesity in children these days. If your pediatrician uncovers early signs of obesity, together you can take preventative measures to encourage your child to eat healthy and exercise before problems such as diabetes or high cholesterol kick in.
During a well-child check, a careful examination of the chest and heart also is important. A family history of syncope – a temporary loss of consciousness – or heart disease at an early age may be an indication for further assessment.
The pediatrician will perform a full physical on your child from head to toe, making sure all the organs are properly developing with no need for further work-up. This includes feeling the thyroid gland, checking for scoliosis and testing the nervous system along with a thorough look at the eyes, ears, mouth and skin, and listening to the lungs, heart and abdomen. These exams also meet the requirements needed for physicals required by sports, camps and scouts.
Blood work may also be recommended if there are any risk factors present such as obesity, family history of diabetes or abnormal blood lipids.
While schools often perform hearing and vision tests, you can request these services from your pediatrician, as well.
Making sure vaccinations are up-to-date
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) occasionally changes rules and regulations when it comes to which vaccinations are required, when and how often. Your pediatrician should be up to date on all of that information – another great reason to maintain annual checkups.
Around age 11, parents may consider vaccinating their children to protect them from cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. The vaccination is not required by the government, but is highly recommended by most pediatricians and gynecologists.
Your child’s annual checkup will involve some discussion, as well. The pediatrician should inquire about eating habits, activity level, school performance, responsibilities and risky behavior.
Feeling overwhelmed? Let us help.
It’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed while trying to cross things off the to-do list before school starts. Memorial Hermann’s new personalized web application Everyday Well helps you to manage your family’s health, making those back-to-school well-child checks even easier.
Schedule an appointment, check lab results, pay your bill, request a refill or send a message to your doctor – all with just a click. Everyday Well can be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device.
For more information or to find a physician, visit memorialhermann.org/everydaywell.