Many times we take our children to the doctor only when they are sick, but we also need to make sure that they are physically, mentally and emotionally taken care of. It is also important to take children to the doctor for preventive visits, or well checks.
There are two different types of doctor visits. There is a sick visit in which the doctor will ask you straight-forward questions and try to determine what the problem is with your child, make a diagnosis and give a treatment plan for the specific condition.
Then there are well check visits, in which pediatricians try to gather information from the parents about different types of things that involve a developing child. The pediatrician talks about growth, development and behavioral issues, as well as any other concerns parents may have.
Pediatricians also provide immunizations as part of preventive care, and give anticipatory guidance about accidents, how to prevent them and how to make sure your child is in a safe environment.
Immunizations are made to prevent the most common life-threatening diseases that affect childhood. Some of them are made from attenuated viruses or toxins that the body will recognize and create a memory, so if the child gets exposed to it they won’t get the disease. Immunizations are given at specific ages when maternal antibodies are lost or when it’s more common to acquire certain illnesses.
When pediatricians discuss childrens’ growth, they use a growth chart. There are different areas that are measured, such as weight, height, head circumference and body mass index (BMI). Pediatricians also discuss sleeping, eating and emotional disorders in children.
When pediatricians discuss development, they ask the parents very specific questions to ensure that their children are achieving their milestones, and there are no delays in areas like motor coordination, fine motor skills, speech and social development. In older children, pediatricians also try to assess behavioral disorders and try to get information about the different environments that children are exposed to.
Pediatricians are trained to pick up on developmental disorders. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with pediatricians, tries to orient parents about the necessity of doing well check visits to prevent those situations, and to make sure children grow into successful adults.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has scheduled well checks for children as follows: Healthy newborns should be checked three to five days after discharge from the hospital. After that, children should receive well checks at two weeks old, two months old, four months old, six months old, nine months old, 12 months old, 15 months old, 18 months old, 24 months old, 30 months old, 3 years old, and every year until the age of 21.
C. Marila Taveras began medical school at age 16 and has been in practice for 15 years. She received her training at a Cornell University-affiliated hospital in New York City and was a researcher at Columbia University. She is the supervising pediatrician at Tooele Pediatrics.