Similar to adult well-visits, basic vital signs such as height, weight, and blood pressure will be taken on your child. However, unlike a well-adult visit, other measurements may be taken to insure that your child is growing up normally. These measurements are often taken during infancy and include things like head circumference and length/weight ratio. During early childhood, vital signs are still recorded at each visit but other issues are addressed such as oral health as the child begins teething and screening for developmental disabilities as the child begins to speak, draw, and walk. Later on in middle childhood and adolescence, mental health, substance abuse and sexual health screening are added as these factors begin to enter into the child's life. Throughout all of the well-child visits, the doctor should make sure the child is current on all required vaccinations appropriate for the child's age; however, staying current on vaccinations and staying current on well-child exams are two very separate things that don't always overlap in terms of ages at which they should be done (i.e. you may not get vaccines at every well-child visit and/or you may need to get a vaccine and not see a physician to stay on schedule sometimes).
Children develop in many ways including physical growth, psychological growth, and social growth. Each aspect of their development is very important to monitor as problems in one area can sometimes cause difficulties that permeate into other areas of growth. As a child develops, certain parts of their bodies and personalities may begin to require surveillance while other parts may not be as important anymore (ex. Your child's head circumference is used as a measurement of proper growth but only up until 2 years of age. Also, you wouldn't want to screen a 2 year old for STIs; however, an 18 or 19 year old sexually active teen may warrant STI screens).
Genetic abnormalities are a broad category of diseases in which a newborn's DNA contains problems that cause their bodies to develop abnormally. These problems are rare but are very serious and many states screen for a long list of such diseases (View the State of Kansas Newborn Screening Website). Although many of these diseases will persist for the life of the child, if caught early enough steps can be taken to help give the child a more normal life and alleviate stress the family may otherwise feel.
As a child grows, so too does the family around it. Pediatricians help work with parents to educate them about their children and to help parents better understand how their child will develop. Pediatricians only see the child a few times a year whereas parents see their children most every day, and as such it's very important for physicians to help establish healthy family practices and support systems to give the child the best chance at a normal, healthy life.
Nutritional health and oral health are very important aspects of a child's healthy growth and development. While a dentist carries out the primary responsibilities of checking for tooth and gum health, pediatricians and parents are also important influences on a child's daily oral hygiene. Parents and pediatricians should always work to encourage age appropriate brushing and flossing technique.
While a child's physical and psychological health are both important, it's also very important for parents to do their best to provide a safe environment for their children to live in. This includes things like properly installing and using child-seats in cars, helping their children wash their hands regularly, reminding them to cover their sneezes and coughs, and keeping them away from sources of second hand smoke. Also important to note is the ability of parents to lead by example - in other words, parents must preach what they practice in order to have the best chance at positively affecting their child.
It's important to bring your driver's license, government issued I.D., or passport in case your office requires proof of identity to be on file. Also, bring a copy of your insurance card (if you're insured) and whatever cards your insurance company has given you on behalf of your child. Lastly, if your child needs any specific forms filled out for school and/or extracurricular activities, it's best to bring those with you (if possible) so you don't need to go back to the doctor's office to have said forms signed.
While each doctor's office may be slightly different with regard to payment options, it's important to know your office's policies ahead of time so no surprises arise when you're finished with the visit. Generally, a co-pay (determined by your insurance company) is all that's required at the time of service if you're insured. If you're not insured, your office can give you a ballpark figure on the full cost of a well-child visit.
Many offices have policies regarding missing or even being late to appointments. Know your office's policies beforehand and make an effort to be on time to your child's visits (sometimes, it's a good idea to allow between 15-20 minutes before the visit for paperwork). This will help the visit move on schedule and will save both you and your physician time.
Children can receive vaccinations in a number of places: your pediatrician's office, your local health department, their elementary school. It's important for you as a parent to keep a complete record of all the vaccines your child receives in a safe place. If your child gets all of their vaccines in one place, your personal record should match the record your child's place of vaccination has. However, if they get vaccines from multiple clinics, no single place (aside from your personal record) will have the complete picture of child's vaccination history. Diligence and organization are key components of keeping accurate vaccination records for your child.