Regular well-child examinations by a doctor are essential for keeping kids healthy and up-to-date on their immunizations. A checkup also is a chance to talk to the doctor about developmental and safety issues and to ask any questions you might have about your child's overall health. As kids grow, they can also ask their own questions about their health and changing body.
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 perform a complete physical examination.
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. At the 11 to 12 year old visit, immunizations may include:
The flu vaccine, given before flu season each year, also is recommended.
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, difficulties at school, and other concerns.
As your child becomes a teenager, 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.
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 require a doctor's attention include:
changes in weight or eating habits
changes in behavior or sleep patterns
failure to progress in height or pubertal development as expected
fever and acting sick
frequent, long-lasting vomiting or diarrhea
signs of a skin infection or an unusual or persistent rash
stubborn cough, wheezing, or other breathing problems
Typical 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. Although rarely serious, if the problem persists, call your doctor.