The Importance of Well Visits With Your Child’s Doctor

The Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Children's Hospital of Michigan weighs in on why well visits are essential to your child's health — even in the midst of a pandemic.

Since the coronavirus began to spread in Michigan, have you cancelled your child’s appointment with their pediatrician or a follow-up visit with their specialist? You are not alone.

“The COVID fear and the lockdown have made it very difficult for people to get out of the house to go anywhere, and that includes visiting their doctors or going to the hospitals. All the hospitals actually saw a dramatic decrease in the number of pediatric patients,” says Dr. Banu Kumar, Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

However, as the curve continues to flatten and restrictions are being lifted, Kumar suggests scheduling these appointments, which are essential in preventing illnesses and keeping those who are already immunocompromised, safe. Here, Kumar offers insight on well visits for kids at all stages.

Vaccinations and other preventative measures

Just as adults should stay on top of their health through wellness visits, so should children. For younger kids, vaccines are the No. 1 reason these visits are essential.

From birth until age 4, children receive routine vaccinations at regular intervals. But because many parents have held off on these well visits in recent months, their kids are not receiving their vaccinations on time. “This is one of the biggest concerns, even from the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Kumar says.

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When most of the children get vaccinated, the entire community develops resistance to vaccine preventable diseases and it is called herd immunity. In the United States, diseases like diphtheria and polio are quite rare because of successful childhood vaccination and development of herd immunity, Kumar says. But, when kids don’t get vaccinated, these deadly diseases are going to start coming back. We would certainly see the impact in the next several months and years, she adds.

While vaccines are essential, they are not the only part of a health checkup. Monitoring growth, hearing and vision tests, developmental assessments, screening for behavioral and mental issues, testing for lead and anemia, are some of the other things that doctors do to make sure that problems are identified and addressed sooner. “Anything, if detected early enough, something can be done about it,” Kumar says.

Continuing visits into the teen years

While some parents may say that children do not need to see the pediatrician beyond age 10, Kumar notes that around ages 11-13, kids do need a few different vaccinations. In addition, puberty, sexual health and even mental health are areas worth discussing and evaluating.

“Preteen age is when they are going through a lot with puberty, hormonal changes, identity issues etc. Teenagers may not feel comfortable talking about their stresses and emotions with parents, but they may do so with their pediatrician. “It is a tender age where they definitely need someone else other than their parents to talk to,” she adds.

Depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress — these are just some of the emotions your tween or teen could be feeling. Some may have thoughts of suicide; others may be dealing with bullying or body issues. And this is where they could benefit from having someone to talk to. “There is a lot that doctors can do to help these kids go in the right direction,” Kumar says.

For children with preexisting conditions such as heart issues, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, leukemia, diabetes and blood pressure issues, well visits are also crucial. “If the kid has existing conditions and is supposed to be followed up by specialists on a regular basis, putting that away is not necessarily a good thing,” Kumar says, “because things may be deteriorating and you may not notice.”

It is important to keep things checked regularly as a preventative measure for your child.

Your child’s next visit

When it is time to visit your child’s pediatrician’s office or Children’s Hospital of Michigan, check ahead to see what health safety protocols have been put in place, Kumar says. Depending on the age of the child and the nature of the visit, the precautions may vary slightly. At Children’s Hospital of Michigan, for instance, all the providers are wearing masks and other protective gear as appropriate. There are separate entrances for providers and patients at the main hospital, and the hospital is doing whatever is possible to ensure the safety of both patients and providers.

“We want to put our patients first, and we want to make sure that our kids and families stay safe through this all. And so we are doing our best to keep Children’s Hospital a safe place to come for check up and treatment.”

Content brought to you by Children’s Hospital of Michigan. For more information, visit childrensdmc.org.

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