Things You Should Know Before Visiting a Pediatrician
One of the most important persons in your child’s life next to you is their pediatrician. From birth through adolescence, they will work with you to safeguard your child’s health and well-being. You’ve probably gone through a process of choosing the first health care providers for your family, now you need to know what to expect at that first visit and beyond.
Your child will probably see the pediatrician most during the first year. Their first physical after coming home from the hospital happens at about six weeks of age, when they will also have their first vaccinations. They’ll have additional vaccinations several times during their first year.
These visits are called well-child checks because you child is receiving preventative care. They’ll also let you and your pediatrician know if your child is progressing within a normal range for height, weight, reflexes and other issues. This is the best way to diagnose potential health concerns at an early stage.
What to Expect During an Office Visit
The first thing that will happen after you sign in at the reception area is a height and weight check. All of this information is kept in a chart to track your child’s progress as they grow. The doctor, an assistant or nurse practitioner may also take your child’s temperature just to make sure they’re not coming down with something. Blood may also be drawn at this time, and urine samples taken so those can be sent to the lab for evaluation. These specimens will tell the doctor if your child’s iron levels and blood sugar are within normal range and check for blood-borne illnesses like leukemia.
Some disorders can be determined by halts in normal growth, excessive weight gain or no weight gain at all. The pediatrician is looking for healthy weight gains within a certain range that progress normally over time and a steady rate of growth. If any abnormalities are found, your child may be sent to a specialist for further checks or evaluated for a little while to see if the situation corrects itself.
Next, the doctor will examine the eyes and take a look in the ears, nasal passages and throat. Your child will also be examined by hand under the arms, around the abdomen, and on the groin area. That’s to check for common ailments, but also signs of serious illnesses like cancers. Physical symptoms like tumors and swollen lymph nodes may not be visibly detectable at the beginning stages so it’s necessary to feel around for any strange lumps. You’ll also be asked about family histories for conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Once an initial physical is completed, your doctor will discuss your child’s progress at reaching certain milestones like sitting up, walking, or talking, depending on their age. All children develop at different stages, but if your child is two years old and not walking yet or hasn’t begun to say their first words, this could indicate a problem. These evaluations will continue throughout your child’s life into puberty.
Emotional Wellness is Important, Too
Pediatricians aren’t just concerned with physical health, but also with emotional well-being. As your child grows, discussions at the pediatric office may shift to include their progress at school and ability to initiate or maintain friendships. This is an age when signs of disorders like ADHD become more prominent. During the onset of adolescence, more serious disorders like depression and schizophrenia begin to emerge, so the doctor will want to look for behavioral issues that might warrant a referral for further evaluation with a mental health professional.
Your Pediatrician, Your Partner
Your family doctor is someone with whom you’ll build a long-lasting relationship. It might help you to make sure you’ve covered your concerns by writing out a list of questions before a visit. It’s important that you feel comfortable discussing your concerns with your child’s pediatrician, and that your child learns to become comfortable doing that same as they get older. You should be prepared for the time when your child is old enough to communicate for themselves, and you are asked to sit in the waiting room while your child sees their doctor.
It’s essential that you prepare yourself and your child for this big step toward autonomy by encouraging them to ask questions from an early age. Some children are naturally shy, but your child should feel comfortable undressing at a doctor’s office and discussing potentially sensitive subjects, especially as they enter puberty.
Your pediatrician should be easy to communicate with and reachable outside of office hours. Some offices, like Newport Children’s Medical Group are open 7 days per week while others are only available on weekdays. This is important information to know as there’s not always a convenient time for a child’s health concern to crop up.
Now that you know some of the things to expect before visiting a pediatrician, be sure to get that first checkup in soon.