(BPT) - As back-to-school season gets underway, it's important to ensure that your child is ready for the school year, both physically and emotionally, by scheduling a well-child visit.
Annual well-child visits are doctor appointments for preventive health services which are essential for ensuring a child's growth and tracking developmental milestones. The well-child visit is also the time for routine immunizations to prevent diseases like measles, polio, hepatitis B, chickenpox, whooping cough and other serious diseases.
"Like vaccines, which prevent physical health conditions, speaking with your child's primary care physician regularly about mental health concerns is also an essential part of overall preventive care," said Rhonda L. Randall, D.O. and chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare. "Your annual well-child visit is also an opportunity to have a conversation with your child's physician. It's best to have these conversations when problems or warning signs first appear, so your physician can take the appropriate steps to best treat them."
If you're not sure what questions to ask your child's primary care physician during an annual well-child visit, consider the following:
Ask what vaccines are appropriate for your child's age - and how to make up any that have been missed. You can refer to the list of child and adolescent vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at CDC.gov/vaccines. In addition to other childhood vaccines, both flu and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended by the CDC for everyone 6 months of age and older. If you are concerned about childhood vaccines, ask the pediatrician about common side effects, which are typically very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site, and can include low-grade fever or rash.
Discuss changes in your child's behavior. Some common warning signs that your child's mental well-being isn't where it needs to be include persistent sadness, withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions, displaying outbursts of extreme irritability, drastic changes in mood, behavior or personality, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, frequent headaches or stomachaches, difficulty concentrating, changes in academic performance or avoiding or missing school.
Ask for guidance on how best to support your child. Whether you have concerns about your child's nutrition, exercise, sleeping patterns or behavioral changes, your child's primary care physician is a great place to start. With so many young children experiencing mental and emotional health challenges, it's important to create opportunities for them to share how they are really doing. Remember that these can be sensitive topics for your child to discuss. Empathy and patience go a long way to help children and adolescents feel listened to and comfortable.
Don't forget to bring your sports physical forms. It's great if your child participates in school sports. The wellness visit is an opportune time to make sure your physician is aware that your child is a student-athlete and address any concerns like nutrition, prior injuries and family history.
Ask for recommendations for other health care professionals, if needed. For example, if your child hasn't seen the dentist in a while, if their vision screening indicated that they need to see an eye doctor, or their mental health screening has raised concerns, ask which health care professionals in your plan's network they would recommend.
"If you haven't already, now is the time to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician, to give your child a healthy start to the school year," added Randall. "Regular well-child visits are essential in making sure your child is up to date on immunizations and that their developmental milestones are on track - including their mental well-being."
To learn more about recommended preventive care for your child, visit UHC.com.