For children of all ages, staying healthy is critical. From one year to the next, kids go through a number of physical, emotional and social changes. And, to appropriately track and properly evaluate those changes, well checkup appointments, conducted by a physician – likely a pediatrician – are essential to ensure your child is on the right path for continued healthy growth.
With the beginning of a new school year on the horizon, it’s a perfect time to parents schedule well checkup appointments for students. Doing this prior to the school year will help you and your child be certain he is healthy and fully prepared for the first day of school.
WELL CHECKUP APPOINTMENTS
“The child’s growth, health, nutrition, and development are assessed, as well as how well the child is functioning from a psychological, educational, emotional, and social standpoint,” she says.
Schaten stresses the importance of annual well checkup appointments because if any type of problem is identified, a plan of action can be implemented immediately to remedy the issue.
“Many times problems can be identified early and treated, before they become more serious and more difficult to treat. And, if there are educational or psychological issues that are problematic, they can be addressed before they worsen,” she says.
When your child was an infant, your pediatrician referred to a detailed, age-appropriate spectrum that helps identify if your baby is presenting normally versus abnormally or healthy versus unhealthy. And, the same concept is used when assessing children in well checkup appointments as they age. From a well checkup appointment, Schaten says both parents and physicians will be armed with essential medical information revealing a child’s health, growth and maturity.
During the appointment, she says the markers pediatricians assess are as follows:
• Time is allotted to answer questions the parents or child may have. Recommendations for diet, exercise, sleep, enhancing the child’s development and educational needs are given.
• The physician will perform a head-to-toe physical examination of the child.
• Vaccination records are reviewed. Based on the age of the child, additional vaccines may be recommended and administered.
• If medically necessary, additional testing may be needed, such as a complete vision assessment by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, a hearing test by an audiologist, educational testing for learning disabilities, specific blood tests, X-rays or urine specimens may be ordered to check kidney function.
• A vision screen is conducted.
• A portion of the checkup is devoted to determining if the child’s physical, mental, and emotional statuses are appropriate for their age. And, if not, devise a plan for further evaluation and treatment. As children approach their teen years, we screen for such issues as smoking, drug use or depression.
For children older than the age two, well checkup appointments are recommended as annual appointments unless a physician advises otherwise or other medical issues persist.
VISIT THE DENTIST
In addition to well checkup appointments, for teeth and overall mouth health, visiting the dentist twice each year for tooth and mouth cleanings is essential. Dr. Thomas Drake, a dentist with Smile Designers Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Longmont, says establishing proper oral hygiene habits are essential for everyone, but especially children.
“The best way to get your children to have good dental hygiene is to model the desired behavior as a parent. Brush your teeth at the same time as your kids. Doing this will help the process not feel like a negative task you have to hound and fight your kids about, but it will instead become more of a daily routine everyone participates in,” he says.
With dental cleaning appointments recommended once every six months, there are daily tactics children can do to maintain a healthy smile. Brushing and flossing are crucial. But, doing so once a day isn’t enough. Drake recommends brushing three times each day and flossing once before bed. If it’s impossible to brush three times each day, don’t panic. Sometimes the best oral hygiene comes down to quality, not quantity.
Drake says that so long as your child engages in a proper teeth brushing session twice each day – once in the morning and once before bed; flossing included – keeping cavities away is a much more likely outcome.
Nighttime brushing and flossing are so important because a lot happens in the mouth during hours of sleep.
“At night, your mouth stays completely undisturbed, so it’s a ripe time for all the bacteria to take hold. Brushing and flossing before bed helps ward-off cavities and damage,” Drake says.
KEEP GERMS AWAY
Getting sick is not enjoyable for both the parent and the child. Unfortunately, our children are likely to get sick throughout the school year due to germ transmission in the close-quarters of a classroom setting.
“Pediatricians always see more sick children during the school year than in the summer. Not only do children transmit illness through sneezing and coughing, but all surfaces in the school are contaminated with viruses and bacteria including: computers, water fountains, desks, chairs, doorknobs, faucets, etc.,” Schaten says.
But she says parents can use several tactics to help keep germs at-bay and students as healthy as possible:
• Parents and children must wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer prior to eating, and – most certainly – after a bathroom visit.
• Teach children to keep hands away from the face.
• Avoid drinking from the water fountain. Send children to school with an individual water bottle.
• Adequate sleep is essential for a number of reasons, but sleep will contribute to a strong immune system, which is imperative for fighting germs.
• Exercise regularly and consume healthy, wholesome foods.
• Dress appropriately for the weather and outdoor temperatures.
“Every year, about 10 to 30 percent of the population gets influenza, and it is highly contagious,” Schaten says. “Children who get immunized against influenza – every year – are much less likely to get the disease, and even if they do, it is usually less severe.”
– By Dominique Del Grosso