The AAP Guide to Making the Best of Your Child’s Annual Exams

By: EricAdamson

Many families put off visits to doctors that were not essential during the pandemic. This led to a drop of 53 percent in annual checkups for children, according a study published in Academic Pediatrics. Parents were reluctant to wait in a waiting area where they might be infected by COVID-19. Given how quickly standard checkups can seem to go by (“It’s over?”), it may have felt like you were missing a lot. It may have felt like you didn’t miss much, considering how quickly standard checkups seem to go by (“It’s over?

Pediatricians believe that well visits are more than just height, weight, shots, and school forms. They allow for a deeper view of a child’s health. Katherine Williamson, M.D. is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Orange County in California. “Over time I am able to identify subtle signs whether they are physical or mental and can tell when the child is at risk and what their normal is.”

Be prepared with questions

There are likely to be concerns that you have, but they can quickly disappear once you get to the doctor’s. Make a list of all issues that you would like to be discussed several days before your checkup. Perhaps you are unsure if your child is grinding their teeth or are concerned about their eating habits. You might also want to share specific details with your doctor. It can help to keep a food diary for weight concerns. This will include a list of all foods, snacks, drinks, and meals your child eats over a week. Then we can discuss the results with you,” Jessica Lazerov, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. She says that it is possible to send a video or photo to the doctor to address physical symptoms such as snoring.

After you have compiled your list, choose three topics to focus on in order of importance. It’s a good idea if you mention your questions at the beginning of your visit. Perhaps you say to Dr. Richards that you would like to talk about teeth grinding after the exam is over. Or you might mention that you have concerns about your child’s night terrors. Douglas Lincoln, M.D. is a pediatrician at Metropolitan Pediatrics in Portland, Oregon. “If we prioritize what’s important for us, it might mean that we won’t spend so much time talking about what’s going well, and can instead concentrate our time on what’s most meaningful to you and your child,” he says.

Talk about Mental Health

Dr. Lincoln states, “This year, I have seen much higher rates anxiety, depression and eating disorders, even among young children.” Anxiety, sadness, loss, grief, and sadness can all lead to problems such as bedwetting, sleep problems and regression. Many children also experience stress from recent political and racial tensions. Pediatricians are able to screen children for anxiety and depression and offer support. Many practices have social workers who can see patients in a matter of hours. Or, the pediatrician may refer a patient to a specialist in mental health. Dr. Lincoln warns that it may take some time for the full effects of the pandemic to be apparent in children’s mental health. Even if there aren’t any obvious signs yet, it is important to keep an eye on your child and speak with your doctor if you feel you might be experiencing problems.

Discover Unexpected Help from Doctors

Many pediatricians offer services that parents may not be aware of. These include applying fluoride varnish on their teeth and making recommendations for children with learning difficulties or trouble making friends. Some pediatricians have lactation specialists who can help with breastfeeding problems. Ask your pediatrician if they offer a particular service. Parents can often be connected to specialists and organizations by pediatricians, such as those who specialize in food allergy support, family law issues, literacy groups, or any other service.

Talk openly with your pediatrician

It is tempting to hide the truth about things that you feel will make you and your child look bad. Candice W. Jones M.D., Orlando pediatrician, suggests that you think of the pediatrician instead as an ally. We don’t have all the information we need to make the best decisions for our patients. If your child has asthma, it is not a good idea to admit to having a cat. Dr. Jones states, “But if they don’t know that, it will be a missed piece of their asthma management.” Your pediatrician won’t judge you or lecture, but he will focus on your child’s health. The doctor might suggest ways to reduce your child’s cat exposure.

Do not be afraid to ask for help if you are unsure

Medical jargon is a common mistake made by doctors. It can sound like gibberish to those not in the healthcare profession. Chris Etscheidt M.D., a Waukee pediatrician, said that if something isn’t clear or makes no sense, it’s fine to ask more questions or request that the doctor repeat it or explain it in another way. Don’t think that any question is dumb. If your doctor gives you vague instructions about the medication, such as how long it should be taken, with what meals, and any side effects, don’t feel like there is a dumb question. The purpose of a well visit is to ensure that you understand and have all the information necessary to provide the best possible care for your child’s wellbeing.

Things to know before your child’s checkup

1. Make sure to schedule your visit at the right time.

Your child will be most comfortable when you are there. This means that you should avoid nap time or mealtime to ensure your child is not hungry or sleepy (and cranky). So you don’t feel pressured to do anything, plan ahead.

2. Prepare your child.

The drill is familiar to older children. For a toddler or preschooler, it might be “Tomorrow, we’re going the doctor for a lookup.” Dr. Anderson will measure your height and weight, examine your ears and eyes, and listen to your heart.

3. Be upfront about vaccinations.

Ask your child whether they will be receiving vaccinations. You can also call the doctor to ask. You can be honest with your child and try to put a positive spin. Although it will feel a bit uncomfortable, it should not last long. This shot will help you to stay healthy and allow you to go to kindergarten.