The Benefits of Well-Child Visits
Childhood is prime time for episodes worthy of a doctor visit. Sprains, concussions, and ear infections-to name just a few. A trip to the doctor when your child is well can be just as essential. Periodic well-child visits can alert you to developmental delays and provide valuable parenting advice. They may even help deter critical care, such as hospitalizations.
In a recent study, researchers analyzed the health insurance records of more than 20,000 children younger than age 3½. Their goal: to see if there was a correlation between the number of well-child visits received and the chance for hospitalization.
What did they find? Children who missed half or more of recommended well-child visits were up to two times more likely to require hospital care. The most common reasons: pneumonia, dehydration, and stomach problems. Not surprisingly, children with chronic conditions-such as asthma or heart disease-fared worse. They had up to three times the chance of going to the hospital.
Thankfully, many children are receiving some well-child care. In the latest government report on children's health, an average of 78 percent of parents reported their child had a well-child visit in the past year. Unfortunately, that rate drops as children grow older. One past study found checkups declined significantly after 6 months of age.
You may associate well-child visits with only vaccines and growth charts. But that's only part of their preventive power. They give parents an opportunity to discuss a variety of concerns, including nutrition, sleep troubles, toilet training, and social problems. Doctors can also provide tips on such topics as home safety and child discipline.
Another benefit of a well-child visit is developmental monitoring. While with a child, a doctor may spot problems with playing, speaking, or interacting. Such signs may indicate autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or a learning disability. Identifying children with these problems early can help ensure they receive much-needed care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends well-child visits at the following ages:
- 3 to 5 days old
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 24 months
- 30 months
Children ages 3 and older should have an annual wellness check.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.