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Well-child visits important for children and parents

Nagwa Khadr, M.D., F.A.A.P. [July 19 2012]

Most parents don't hesitate to take a child to the doctor for an ear infection, rash, cough or other problem, but preventive care is also critical for children, especially during the first year of life.

Well-child visits can help prevent problems or catch health concerns early. These visits often also include planned procedures like immunizations, screenings and other tests. Experts recommend well-child visits at the following intervals:

• Birth
• Three to four days after birth
• Months 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18
• Ages 2 years, 2 and a half years, 3 years and 4 years.

After age 4, children should visit their pediatrician once a year for an annual visit that includes a physical exam as well as developmental, behavioral, and learning assessments.

Well-child visits provide excellent opportunities for parents to raise questions and concerns about their child's development and well-being – questions parents might not think to ask during a visit for a specific illness or problem. Questions can cover medical and non-medical issues, including toilet training, sleep, nutrition and eating habits, behavior, learning and safety. To prepare for well-child visits, write down questions as they occur to you and bring them to your appointment.

Do not hesitate to ask any question or raise any concern with your child's pediatrician. An open, honest relationship with your child's doctor ensures that both of you are educated and informed, and, most importantly, helps keep your child healthy. Bringing your child for regular checkups and having a good relationship with the pediatrician also sets a great example for children about the value and importance of preventive care throughout life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers well-child care so important, it developed “Bright Futures”, a health promotion and disease prevention initiative that includes a set of comprehensive health supervision guidelines on well-child care for pediatricians. The AAP also provides information for parents on well-child visits and a wide range of other topics at its website: www.healthychildren.org.

Nagwa Khadr, M.D., F.A.A.P., is chief of Pediatrics at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 1-800-321-6244 or online.