Brittany Almaraz, MD, is an experienced primary care physician specializing in family medicine. Dr. Almaraz is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, and she provides primary care for patients of all ages, from newborns to older adults. Dr. Almaraz is helping raise awareness of the importance of staying up to date on well-child visits with your physician.
Are well Child Visits Mandatory?
Each state decides which vaccines are required for a child’s enrollment and attendance at a childcare facility or school. For the state of Ohio, the required vaccines for childcare and school can be found on the Ohio Department of Health Website.
While well-child visits that do not involve one of these required vaccines are not required by law, these visits are considered critical to the health, wellness and development of a child.
Taking Your Child to a Check-up, Even During COVID-19
Staying up to date on your child’s well-child visits allows your physician to check on critical aspects of their health and development and provide you, the parent/guardian, with valuable insights that factor into your child’s overall well-being. These include, but are not limited to, your child’s physical, emotional and social wellness—all areas that can be affected by daily life as we enter the third year of a global pandemic.
Well-child visits also provide your child with the necessary routine vaccinations they need to protect them from serious illnesses such as chickenpox, whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, and the flu, as well as checking on your child’s physical and mental developmental milestones. As we continue the COVID-19 pandemic and enter a new normal, updating your child’s vaccinations will be crucial in preventing other childhood illnesses.
While children have been statistically less affected by COVID-19 as compared with adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends that everyone ages 5 years and older get vaccinated to help protect against COVID-19.
Well-child visit checklist
There are things that you, the parent/guardian, can do to ensure you make the most out of well-child visits—after all, you are the one that knows your child best, and it is important to recognize the key role that you play in your child’s healthcare visits. See the below checklist of things you can do to make the most of well-child visits:
- Be prepared. Put upcoming well-child visit dates and times on your calendar so you can keep track, prepare transportation and pack a bag with necessities (diapers and wipes, toys for distractions, snacks, hand sanitizer, etc.). Being prepared helps alleviate stress for both parent and child.
- Make a list. Prior to your appointment with your physician, try making a list of any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s health, development, behavior, etc. Communicating your questions or concerns helps your physician give the best and most pertinent advice for your child’s specific needs.
- Be open and honest. At the well-child visit, make sure to be open about any challenges that may arise and share successes and milestones. Being open and honest with your physician gives them access to the whole picture and allows them to provide the most relevant recommendations.
What to Expect at Newborn Visits
After your baby is born, his/her first well-child visit should occur within two to three days of discharge from the hospital. After this first visit, well-child visits should occur every few weeks or months for the first year and a half of your child’s life.
During these visits, your pediatrician will:
- Check your child’s health through a head-to-toe physical exam, with the goal of finding any potential problems before they become serious.
- Track growth and development.
- Screen for hearing or vision difficulties.
- Keep your child up to date on vaccinations needed to protect them from several serious illnesses.
- Answer any questions or address any concerns parents/guardians may have.
- Discuss important health topics such as nutrition, how to keep your child safe at home or in the car, how to support your child’s speech and learning, and bedtime routines, among others.
What to Expect at Pediatric Visits for Kids and Teens
As your child gets older, visits become more spaced out. While these visits include checking up on many of the same health milestones that they did before, now they will provide you and your child with age-specific anticipatory guidance. Anticipatory guidance is a form of proactive counseling where your physician begins to educate your child on topics that are likely to soon come up in their life and provides with helpful tips and tools for tackling these issues. This includes social, emotional and health-related issues often seen as children grow.