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How long has it been since your child's last annual visit?

| Healthy You | Kids Health

Young girl plays doctor with teddy bear

You might be surprised.

As the 2022 back-to-school season starts, Miranda Lanning, MD, a pediatrician with PeaceHealth Medical Group, has a few insights to share.

"We know the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives and I am noticing that many families missed regular medical or dental appointments over the past few years. Various families I work with are surprised to discover more than a year has gone by since their child’s last appointment," she said.

"I have also seen many changes in my patients over the course of the pandemic," she noted. "The effects of the pandemic have been far-reaching and I have seen patients with everything from new vision problems or changing mental health concerns."

Importance of well-child exams

The doctor emphasized the value of well-child exams where providers can identify and discuss changes and create a comprehensive plan for follow-up care.  

Infants, children and adolescents need regular well-child checks. Infants are scheduled every two to three months and children 2 and older should be seen yearly by their pediatrician.

Well-child checks are covered as preventive care by most public and commercial insurances. Yearly well exams are separate from sick visits and other office visits and are important to assess the health of the child.

"We include regular screenings like blood pressure, hearing and vision tests," Dr. Lanning. "At these visits, we also review important guidance about topics such as healthy eating, exercise, screen time, injury prevention, growth and development."

Up-to-date immunizations

Another important component of well care is updating vaccines. Providers will make sure that children's vaccines are up-to-date during their visit and check if they've missed any recommended immunizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. If you would like your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, ask about it when you schedule a well-child check as some clinics will have separate COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Remember that the Pfizer series for young children takes 13 weeks to provide maximum immunity so I recommend starting the series soon for optimal protection this fall and before holiday gatherings or travel. 

"Well-child checks are also a perfect opportunity to complete your child’s sports physical and to fill out a pre-participation form prior to sports this year," she said.

As your provider is filling out the form, it’s important to tell the doctor if your child has had a COVID-19 infection and particularly if any symptoms are ongoing. We want to make sure that your child’s heart and lungs are healthy before participating in sports or physical fitness activities.  

"No matter how long it has been since your child’s last visit, we’re glad to see you and will do everything we can to help ensure that your child is as healthy as possible," Dr. Lanning said.