June 25 — PROVO — For the first three years of a child’s life, parents rely on a detailed schedule of doctor visits to make sure their little one is growing, developing and being immunized properly.
But after that, the guidelines get blurry about when to take a child to the doctor for a checkup. Luckily, the rule is easy to remember – it’s the same for children and adults.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a well-child visit or checkup once a year after age 3,” said pediatrician Jon Burnett, MD. “While these visits may not involve as many vaccines as the previous ones did, there are still many things a physician will want to check on and discuss.”
During the preschool and elementary school years, growth and development is a major focus of these visits, said Dr. Burnett. In addition to a physical exam, physicians will ask questions regarding the following:
• Development, attention span, learning problems
• Eating and sleeping habits
• Toilet training
• Social behaviors
• Home and playground safety
• Stranger danger and bullying
Dr. Burnett said as a child enters puberty, a physician is a great resource for any questions that may come up about the changes happening at this time in life.
“Some questions may seem embarrassing or difficult to ask, but your doctor will strive to make sure you or your teen feel comfortable asking anything,” said Dr. Burnett. “He or she is prepared to discuss alcohol, tobacco, drug use, depression, anxiety, social issues, peer pressure and many other topics.”
As teens get closer to leaving the pediatric years, physicians also start to screen for potential long-term health problems. Many illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes, that used to be associated only with adulthood are now being seen in teens, said Dr. Burnett.
“Your doctor is an expert on child health while you are an expert on your child. Together, you can reach the goal of the best physical, emotional, and developmental health of your child,” said Dr. Burnett.