Are Annual Health Exams for Kids Important?

Henry Ford Health System's Dr. Wenhui Hua offers insights into how to keep kids healthier and catch health concerns early with annual exams.

Few parents would hesitate to take an ill child to the doctor. But what about seeing a doctor when your child is not sick? The “well-child” visit is the perfect time to build a good working relationship with your child’s doctor — and gain valuable health advice.

“We have a different focus for each well-visit,” says Dr. Wenhui Hua, M.D., a pediatrician at Henry Ford Medical Center — New Center One in Detroit. “Immunizations are only a small portion of what we do.”

Hua points to a study by Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research that shows that children who missed more than half of recommended well-child visits had up to twice the risk of hospitalization compared to children who attended most of their visits.

That’s a pretty compelling reason to ensure you schedule your child’s well-visits!

What do child well-visits include?

Hua says that the 20-minute well-visit is tailored to each individual child’s age. Well-child visits can clear up concerns and answer questions along with giving guidance to parents.

Each well-child visit includes a complete physical examination. At this time, your child’s height and weight are measured, and checked against standard patterns of growth and development.

“That’s why we do annual physicals,” Hua says. “We look at a trend over time to determine if there is a cause for concern.”

Hearing and vision screenings may be part of some visits, as well. Hua says that some hearing and vision problems may not show up until later on — another reason to stay on schedule.

Well-visit specifics by age

Infants usually are seen for well-visits several times during the first year of life. During check-ups with well infants, moms are screened for any signs of postpartum depression, and they are given advice on feeding and sleeping patterns. As babies grow, doctors check for normal development milestones, such as sitting up, rolling over or using fingers to pick up objects.

Toddler visits are important, too, particularly around 16 to 18 months. Hua says that symptoms of autism are more identifiable at that time. “Before one year of age, it’s harder to see,” she says. Early identification of these symptoms leads to early intervention and better outcomes.

School-age children also benefit from regular well-child checks, Hua says. Parents have a chance to ask about school related matters, such as any learning problems or any signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, forming good daily health habits, such as getting adequate sleep, are reviewed.

And teens are screened for any signs of depression or drug use. Areas such as school performance, sports participation and extracurricular activities are also monitored during a well-visit with a teen. Keep in mind, though, that a sports physical shouldn’t replace a wellness exam.

Bottom line: Be prepared

Hua suggests that parents make the most of well-child visits by thinking about what you want to discuss with the doctor before your visit.

“Come with a list of questions to ask,” she says. Writing your questions and bringing them to the visit helps focus on areas of concern and starts the conversation with your health care provider.

To schedule a well-child visit or to make an appointment with Dr. Wenhui Hua or another Henry Ford doctor, visit henryford.com.

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