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If you’re like most people, you’ll do everything possible to take a sick child to the doctor. But it can be all too easy to postpone or even neglect taking healthy children to the doctor for wellness exams. You may think that a regular checkup is not a serious issue if your child seems to be doing well. However, experts agree that well-child exams are important and necessary.

Why Regular Checkups Are Important

One reason for giving children regular wellness exams is because these exams can uncover potentially serious problems in their early stages. This allows treatment to begin much sooner than it would have otherwise. According to Dr. Walt Larimore, most doctors involved with well child exams have detected serious problems in early stages many times. Yet according to an American Academy of Pediatrics survey, nearly a quarter of all children do not receive the recommended number of wellness exams.

On the flip side, having the doctor’s seal of approval on a regular basis that your child is in fact healthy is a terrific benefit. During the wellness check you can discuss your child’s development, ask questions, and learn some new wellness strategies. Most Medicaid and insurance policies cover wellness exams, says Dr. Larimore, so if you’re covered it shouldn’t be a big hit to your wallet. Some programs even cover copays and associated testing costs, turning wellness checks into financial bargains.

When Children Should Have Wellness Exams

Babies grow and develop rapidly, so physicians generally see them several times during their first year. They also receive many of their immunizations during this time. After age two, wellness exams become less frequent. Your physician may specify a preference, as may your insurance company. Many doctors recommend annual exams but say that every other year may be acceptable for healthy children.

What Takes Place at a Wellness Exam

The exact procedure of the appointment will vary with the age of the child. In general, your child’s height and weight will be measured and evaluated against the norms for other children of the same age. The doctor will check vital signs, and may perform developmental screenings, check hearing and vision, and order any needed lab tests. Together you and the doctor will discuss issues such as the child’s nutrition and the developmental milestones your child has reached. It’s also time to administer age-appropriate vaccinations.

As children grow and approach puberty, the wellness exam can be a time to talk to them about bodily changes and healthy choices. Besides teaching them important information about their own development, it helps children recognize that other people besides their parents are concerned about the choices they make and how they take care of their bodies.

Making Regular Checkups a Part of Life

According to a French proverb, “what is learned in the cradle lasts to the grave.” Showing children when they are young that wellness is important by modeling good behavior and by taking them to regular checkups helps them set a pattern for their own lives. Schedule checkups into your calendar annually, and make the appointments early rather than putting them off. Speak positively about the experience at the doctor’s office, and explain to your child how this will help him or her stay healthy. If it’s been a while since your child has had a checkup, it’s never too late. Call your child’s physician and make the appointment now.

Stacie Sizemore is a mother of three healthy kids. When not patching up their scrapes and bruises, she does some freelance writing on health topics. She urges other parents to get an instant insurance quotes to see what doctors’ visits your insurance provider carries.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who take their kids for checkups.

Image courtesy of Alex E. Proimos via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.