Regular well-child exams are an important part of keeping kids healthy and up to date on immunizations against many serious childhood diseases.
Checkups also are a chance for you and the doctor to talk about developmental and safety issues, and for you to get answers to any questions about your child's overall health. As kids grow, they can also ask their own questions about their health and changing body.
What to Expect at the Doctor's Office
At yearly exams, kids are weighed and measured, and their results are plotted on growth charts for weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). Using these charts, doctors can see how kids are growing compared with other kids the same age and gender. The doctor will take a medical and family history and do a physical exam.
During the visit, your child's blood pressure, vision, and hearing will be checked. Your child may be screened for anemia, tuberculosis, or high cholesterol.
The doctor might also ask about your child's sleep, exercise, and eating habits. A yearly exam also lets older kids talk with their doctors about any questions they have about puberty.
The doctor also might talk with your child about the importance of personal care and hygiene; warn against using alcohol, tobacco, or drugs; and stress safety (wearing a bicycle helmet, using seatbelts, etc.).
The doctor also may ask about and provide counseling on behavioral issues, learning problems, problems at school, and other concerns.
As your child becomes a teen, the doctor may ask you to leave the room to allow a more private conversation. It's an important part of kids moving toward independence and taking responsibility for their own health.
In areas where dengue is common (such as Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), the dengue vaccine is given to kids and teens 9–16 years old who have already had dengue fever.
If You Suspect a Medical Problem
Parents usually can judge if their child is sick enough for a visit to the doctor. Some symptoms that may need a doctor's care include:
changes in weight or eating habits
changes in behavior or sleep patterns
failure to progress in height or pubertal development as expected
a fever and looking sick
frequent, long-lasting vomiting or diarrhea
signs of a skin infection or an unusual or lasting rash
stubborn cough, wheezing, or other breathing problems
Common Medical Problems
Common problems found in this age group include sleep disorders, bedwetting, strep throat, and colds. Some preteens also may be injured playing sports or other activities, and some kids develop stress-related stomachaches or headaches.
These are rarely serious, but if a problem lasts, call your doctor.