When a baby is a brand new bundle of joy, parents never hesitate to visit the doctor. Whether it be for a slight cough or for one of numerous well exams, you understand that it’s important that your child receives the best medical attention to get a great start in life. But something happens as kids get older. You become more comfortable in our role as parents, your kids seem happy and healthy, and you may slip into the habit of skipping annual well checks.
Not so fast.
The problem with older kids forgoing well exams is that they miss important and sometimes life-saving screenings. Well exams are more than just stepping on the scale and catching up on missing vaccines. Rather, these exams serve as a comprehensive checkup in which our doctors and nurse practitioners review your child’s physical, nutritional, developmental, educational, and psychological well-being.
If your child plays school sports, you are well-aware that these well exams include a physical examination so that providers certify that your child is healthy enough to participate. However, well checks go much deeper than that: did you realize that well checks also include a developmental screening, nutritional counseling, vision and hearing screening, school counseling, and even parenting advice for you?
One of the most common disorders that we screen for is hypothyroidism. You may not realize that your child hasn’t grown much over the course of a year, but since we track your child’s growth over time, we are able to identify if your child’s growth pattern has changed significantly. A stalled or halted growth rate is one of the most common symptom of hypothyroidism in children.
Another screen with important implications is the cholesterol screening which takes place around age 11 and again at age 17. High cholesterol isn’t typically something a parent is worried about in a child, and as it doesn’t always have any physical manifestations hypercholesterolemia it can silently hurt your child’s health for years before it is discovered as an adult. Too much cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup which narrows the arteries and blocks blood flow to the heart, causing heart problems and stroke with time.
Psychological health is an integral component of overall well-being, and through our screenings we can help identify and help you and your family cope with potentially debilitating conditions. Depression and anxiety are becoming more common in younger children, and eating disorders are on the rise. Our providers can help initiate conversations with your child, recommend treatments, and help you find specialized mental health professionals should there be a need.
We also perform anemia screens, evaluate puberty onset, conduct hearing and vision tests…it’s a long list, but the potential benefits to your child make it worth an annual well exam. And just in case you aren’t completely convinced, we have some great news: through the Affordable Care Act, a yearly well child exam should be 100% covered by your insurance with no copay. Some screenings may not be covered by your policy, or some may fall under your deductible; different insurance companies cover things differently. If a problem is detected, there might be extra tests that are not covered, but your child’s continued health may depend on these screenings.
I hope this article has been informative, and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for taking the time to become a more informed parent, and I hope to see you at your child’s next well exam.