What happens at the Annual Physical? Pt. 2
I love it when parents have a new baby and they bring the baby in on schedule each time for the “Well Child Check” as we commonly call it. Everyone is very interested and attentive and it is a joy to see the child grow and develop new milestones with each visit. Somehow, after the first year, parents feel like the child does not need to be seen regularly anymore and the visits start falling off. Why is it important to continue the annual physical exam for your children?
1. Monitoring of Growth and Development
Monitoring of growth and development is particularly important in younger children. During the visit, parents fill a questionnaire about their child’s development and this gives your primary care provider an indication about your child’s development. Of course during the exam itself, your provider also evaluates your child’s development. This is particularly crucial in the toddler and childhood stages since the sooner a problem is detected and dealt with, the better the outcome for the child. If necessary your child can be referred for speech therapy or occupational therapy or other resources are given that ultimately help the child to have better developmental result.
Immunizations are given to children and teens during the Well Child check exam for prevention of childhood diseases. Because of immunizations, the incidence of many childhood diseases is so low that a lot of newer parents have actually never seen these illnesses. This has unfortunately led to a lot of complacency and parents now decide they don’t want to immunize their children. I respect a parent who has done research and has concerns and questions that she is willing to discuss with the provider. A lot of times once these concerns are allayed, the parent proceeds with the immunizations. It’s really sad when a parent decides not to immunize their children because they heard a celebrity say that immunizations are harmful. Not immunizing your children puts them at risk for measles, meningitis, pertussis and the list goes on. The saddest position for a parent to find themselves in is for their child to have a preventable disease and suffer the sequelae of that illness. Every time you look at your child you will blame yourself, knowing you could have prevented this. I’m not saying there are no side effects to vaccines. Everything we do in medicine has side effects. Even Tylenol and Motrin have side effects but we always weigh the benefits against the risks. When it comes to immunizations, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
3. Nutrition and Exercise
The incidence of childhood obesity is on the rise and your primary care provider is there to assist you in managing this problem if your child is already obese or can give you tools to help your child live a healthy lifestyle. Appropriate nutrition and increasing physical activity is discussed at each visit. Tackling obesity is urgent since it can have significant consequences for the child. Children are teased in school, causing them to have low self-esteem and sometimes depression. Obesity places them at risk for heart disease, Diabetes and even arthritis. Your healthcare provider assists you and your child towards a healthier lifestyle and gives you resources during the annual physical to deal with this very serious issue.
4. Safety and Screen Time
Another topic discussed during the physical is safety and accident prevention, both at home and during play. If our homes are not child proofed, they can pose a significant safety hazard for our kids. Common household items can become potential hazards and your provider helps you tease out and control these potential hazards. We discuss kids not spending too much time on the phone or watching TV. We want our kids stimulated with interactive play and we don’t want them so focused on the screen that they literally zone out of life. I find it interesting when parents complain about how much time their children spend in front of the TV or on their phones and yet they have a TV in each bedroom and they use the IPAD as a babysitter. We need to take control of this issue otherwise we will have a generation of children who have no social skills and who have a problem integrating into society
5. Discipline and chores
Discipline is also discussed during the well child check exam. I must admit I have personally learned effective discipline techniques from some of my patients. This is always a good discussion and your doctor or nurse practitioner will discuss effective discipline tactics with you. We also encourage children participating in chores at home. This teaches them a sense of responsibility which will serve them well in future.
As you can see the Well child check exam is very involved and a necessary part of your child’s overall growth and development. Parenting is one of the most important things we do in life and this should be taken seriously. Your friendly primary care provider is there to assist you to help your child’s future become the brightest it can be. When it comes to parenting, we all need all the help we can get. Take advantage of this resource and give your children the opportunity to reach their highest potential.