Regular well-child examinations by a doctor are essential for keeping kids healthy and up-to-date on their immunizations. A checkup also is an opportunity 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 a typical yearly exam, the doctor will weigh and measure your child to check progress along a normal pattern of growth. The doctor will perform a complete physical exam and check blood pressure.
During the visit, your child also may be screened for anemia, blood or protein in the urine, and exposure to tuberculosis, and you may be asked about your family's history of cardiovascular disease and hyperlipidemia (an excess of cholesterol and/or other fats in the blood).
Your child will also be checked for scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and for signs of puberty. Kids who have not received the varicella vaccine or have not had chickenpox (varicella) should be immunized.
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 on sexual development.
In addition, the doctor may instruct your child about the importance of personal care and hygiene to maintain good health; warn against using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs; and emphasize safety, (wearing a bicycle helmet, using seat belts, etc.).
The doctor should also ask about and provide counseling on behavioral issues, learning problems, difficulties at school, and emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
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 can usually judge by a variety of symptoms, and their child's appearance, 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
temperature over 102°F (38.9°C) that lasts or recurs
frequent or lasting vomiting or diarrhea
signs of a skin infection or an unusual or persistent rash
frequent sore throats
stubborn cough, wheezing, or other breathing problems
Typical Medical Problems
Among the typical problems found in this age group are sleep disorders, bedwetting, strep throat, and colds. Preteens also may experience sports injuries, and many kids develop stress-related stomachaches or headaches. Although rarely serious, if the problem persists, call your doctor.