Definition and Overview
Childhood is a time of rapid growth and change. To ensure that children grow into healthy adults, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends annual pediatric checkups that are crucial in screening medical and developmental issues so preventative measures can be taken to either halt the development of certain medical conditions or address them promptly to achieve a better prognosis.
Also referred to as well-care visits, these yearly checkups can be conducted by a primary care physician, family doctor or pediatrician and start when the child is a few days old and continue until the age of 20. During such visits, the child’s parents are informed about the required vaccines that provide protection against certain serious diseases.
Annual pediatric check-ups also focus on the child’s general health, growth and development. They provide an opportunity for the doctor to assess existing medical conditions, address health concerns promptly and provide parents with crucial information about their children’s health.
Who Should Undergo & Expected Results
Well-care visits are for individuals who are 20 years below. As mentioned earlier, these start when the child is a few days old. The frequency of the visits are more often during the first two years of life wherein the child is expected to be seen by the doctor at least three times per year. This is the time when rapid growth and change are observed. The checkups are for both healthy children and those with medical issues. Once the child turns three, the once-a-year pediatric visit will commence. However, additional visits may become necessary if psychosocial and developmental issues, among others, are observed.
The expected results of annual pediatric checkup are:
- Prompt identification of developmental issues, diseases and other medical conditions so medical attention can be provided as soon as possible
- Attaining and maintaining optimum health for the child
- Provide full protection against diseases through timely immunization
- Provide children with continuous medical care
- Assess the child’s risk of developing medical conditions so these risks can be minimized
- Track the child’s growth and development
- Assess the child’s milestones, social behavior and learning abilities
- Provide parents an opportunity to raise concerns about their child’s behavior, eating and sleeping problems, among others
- Build trustworthy relationship between the doctor and the parent and child
How Does the Procedure Work
Well-child visits begin from infancy through adolescence. The baby will be examined within 24 hours of birth to check normal body function, skin tone, hip stability, alertness and basic newborn reflexes. The baby’s length, head circumference and weight will always be measured every visit and these will be recorded on a growth chart. Certain tests to measure how the baby’s hearing nerve responds to sound as well as screening tests for hypothyroidism, sickle cell disease and other inherited disorders will also be performed. A hepatitis B shot will also be given during the first check-up.
During the first year of life, the child is expected to be seen by the pediatrician about six times. The check-ups, which are spaced about 2-3 months apart, typically include the following:
- Taking measurements
- Physical exam
- Developmental surveillance
- Behavioral or psychosocial assessment
- Interview with the parents about the child’s development and milestones
Between the first and two years, the child will be scheduled for at least three well-care visits so the pediatrician can keep close tabs on the baby’s progress. These are conducted once the baby reaches 15, 18 and 24 months. Aside from the basics listed above, the pediatrician may also perform screening tests for developmental disorders that typically affect 1-2-year-olds such as autism.
The annual pediatric checkup starts at the age of three and provides pediatrician with year-by-year health information that is crucial in detecting potential health issues in their earliest stages including hearing and vision problems. These check-ups also allow the doctor to ensure that the child’s growth and development are what is expected and ensure that the child’s vaccines are up-to-date.
Each annual checkup involves a thorough physical exam where the child’s eyes, ears, mouth and nose are thoroughly checked for any abnormalities. The child’s height, blood pressure and weight will also be recorded and compared to previous readings that were obtained the previous year. The doctor will also test the child’s reflexes and check the conditions of the lungs, heart and stomach. If needed, vaccinations will also be updated. If parents or the child report any symptoms being experienced, diagnostic tests will be performed during the same visit or at a later time to determine the causes.
Possible Complications and Risks
Annual pediatric checkups are highly recommended from birth up to 20 years of age. They allow doctors to monitor the child’s development and provide an opportunity for the early detection of medical problems and other issues so prompt treatment can be provided.
However, these checkups are not without risk especially when vaccines are involved. Although vaccines today are the safest, most effective in history, they result in a number of side effects such as soreness where the shot was given, low-grade fever, and pain.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/parent-questions.html
American Academy of Pediatrics.https://www.aap.org/en-us/professional-resources/practice-support/Pages/PeriodicitySchedule.aspx
US National Library of Medicine.https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001928.htm