Regular well-child exams are an important part of keeping kids healthy and up to
date on immunizations against
many serious childhood diseases.
Checkups also are a
chance for you and the doctor to talk about developmental and safety issues, and for
you to get answers to any questions about your child's overall health.
What to Expect at the Doctor's Office
At yearly exams, your child will be weighed and measured, and these results will
be 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 do a physical exam.
The flu vaccine,
given before flu season each year, also is recommended. Other vaccines might be needed
if the doctor determines that your child is at risk for conditions like
The doctor will check for crossed eyes and any vision
and hearing problems, and
also check the teeth
for tooth decay, abnormal tooth development, malocclusion (abnormal bite), dental
injuries, or other problems. In addition to the doctor's dental evaluation, your child
should be making regular visits to the dentist.
The doctor also will check on behavioral and social development, asking questions
to see if your child's everyday behavior is age appropriate, how well your child does
in social situations, and how well he or she communicates.
Developmental milestones for 4-year-olds include being able to:
help with household tasks
play cooperatively with other kids
understand the concept of gender
Developmental milestones for 5-year-olds include being able to:
dress independently and tie shoes
know their address and phone number
draw a person with head, body, arms, and legs
print some letters
Child safety is another topic discussed at well-child visits. The doctor will talk
about the importance of using car
seats, closely watching kids around swimming
pools, preventing poisoning, not smoking around kids,
and using sunscreen.
In homes with guns,
weapons and ammunition should be stored separately and kept locked at all times.
When to Call the Doctor
Some symptoms can be signs of an infection, chronic medical condition (such as asthma), or other medical problem. Call your doctor if your child has any of these:
changes in weight or eating habits
changes in behavior or sleep patterns
a failure to grow in height as expected
a fever and looks sick
lasting vomiting or diarrhea
trouble keeping liquids down
signs of a skin infection or long-lasting rash
a lasting cough,
wheezing, or other breathing problems