Everything you need to know about checkups for children
A well-child check, also known as a well-check exam, checkup, or pediatric exam, is important for keeping your child healthy. It is the time to update vaccinations and talk with your child’s doctor about any concerns you may have.
Like many parents, you may be wondering when to schedule well-child visits and what happens when you get there. Answers to some of the most common questions from our patients follow.
Schedule a well-check exam for your baby or child today.
What are well-baby and well-child exams?
Well-baby and well-child exams are special visits to the pediatrician that happens at certain ages, from birth until age eighteen. After three years old, well-child exams usually happen once a year. Before three, they happen more often.
A well-child exam is a low-stress time to check in with the doctor about any concerns you may have for your child, big and small. It is also a chance to make sure your child is healthy and growing normally. During this exam of your child, also called a pediatric physical exam, the doctor checks your child’s growth and gives any vaccines he or she needs.
At this appointment, your doctor also screens for developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are things most children do at certain ages. For babies, crawling, walking, and talking are developmental milestones. For older kids, developmental milestones are things like reading, writing, and making friends.
When should I bring my baby or child in for a well-check exam?
Frequent well-check exams are important for children’s health and healthy development, especially in their first three years because they are growing and changing so fast.
The first exam is done just a few days after birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exams are recommended at ages:
- 3-5 days
- 2 weeks
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months (1 year)
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 24 months (2 years)
- 30 months
- 3 years, and once a year after
How much do well-child checks cost?
Don’t worry about the cost! Well-Check Exams are covered by Medicaid/CHIP and most other health plans. That means no cost to families.
At Vecino Health Centers, we want to make sure every child in Houston gets the pediatric physical exams they need to thrive. If your children do not have insurance, ask about our Get Care Program, which makes health services affordable for all family members.
What happens at a well-check exam?
During a well-check exam visit, the doctor gives your child a pediatric physical exam. This means the doctor checks things like the child’s height, weight, and heart rate, and does a few other simple tests.
At an exam for younger children, the doctor also asks questions about how a child plays, speaks, acts and moves. To make this easier, Spanish-speaking can schedule a well-check visit at Vecino’s Denver Harbor Family Clinic or Vecino’s Airline Children’s Clinic and ask for a bilingual doctor or nurse.
The doctor might also talk and play a little with your child during the well-child check. All of this is part of the developmental milestone screening. Your doctor is just checking to see if your child learns and grows like other children her age, or if she needs a little extra help. If your child needs help, your doctor will get you the services you need.
Older children who plan to play sports at school usually take care of their sports physical at the same time as their well-check exam.
Will my child get vaccinations during a well-check exam, and are they safe?
Your child might need vaccinations during their next well-child visit. This depends on his age and if he got all of the other vaccinations he needed when he was younger.
Many parents have questions about the safety of vaccines. It is normal to worry about something so important. But good news: vaccines in the US are the safest they have ever been. Scientists spend a lot of time studying the safety of vaccines. In fact, most vaccines are tested for ten years or more before doctors start giving them to children.
Doctors consider vaccines safe, but side effects do sometimes happen. (A side effect is a reaction like a headache or fever that sometimes happens after a person gets a vaccine or takes medicine.)
Each person’s body acts differently after a vaccine, but serious problems are rare. Taking a vaccine is still safer than not taking it. If you are worried about the safety of vaccines, a well child check is a great time to talk to your child’s doctor.
What questions can I ask during my child’s well-check exam?
A well-child exam isn’t just the time for a pediatric physical exam and developmental screening. It is also a great time to ask your doctor about any concerns that came up since your child’s last appointment.
No question or problem is too small for a well-check visit. Some parents even like to bring a list of questions to help them remember everything.
Parents ask all sorts of questions at these checkups. Here are some examples:
- How can I get my child to sleep better?
- Is my child overweight?
- Are vaccines safe?
- My child isn’t doing well in school. Is there something wrong?
- My child is acting out more than usual at home. Should I worry?
- My child doesn’t seem to hear well. Can you test for this?
- Is my child healthy enough to play sports?
- When I compare my child to other kids his age, something just seems “not right”. Is he growing normally?
Should teenagers have one-on-one time with the doctor during a well child check?
Parents sometimes ask if their teenage children need privacy during well-check visits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents consider giving teenagers one-on-one time with the doctor during these visits. This gives teens a chance to ask questions about sensitive things like relationships, depression, and bullying.
It is sometimes hard to decide whether your teenager needs one-on-one time with their provider. This decision is personal to each family and different for each child. If you need help deciding, talk to your teen’s doctor at the beginning of the visit.