Children, while resilient, do require healthcare. They may heal faster than adults, they may get over illnesses slightly faster, but their bodies are still growing, and that requires ensuring they grow correctly and healthily.

But how often should you bring your kid in to see the doctor? When is something considered serious enough for professional intervention?

Let’s take a look at when to bring kids in to see the doctor in order to set your kids up for prioritizing health throughout their life.

Wellness Visits

Just like you need annual visits, kids need wellness visits too. Sometimes, these can be more often than just once a year, too.

For kids, there are additional details a doctor may consider during their appointments. It’s not just about doing a physical and giving them a clean bill of health.

Here’s what you might expect at an annual wellness visit to the doctor’s for a kid:

  • Vitals check
  • Physical exam
  • Ask / answer questions you or they may have
  • Vaccinations
  • Updating medical chart
  • Determine how they’re growing
  • Check progress on certain milestones (depending on age)

Younger children, meaning those under the age of 2, may need more than an annual visit. During the first few years of a child’s life, their body is growing rapidly and it’s important for doctors to be tracking growth and developmental stages so, should something not be in alignment with what’s known to be healthy for children their age, intervention can begin promptly.

It’s also important to note that regular doctor visits when your kids are young will help them feel more comfortable with a patient-doctor relationship when they’re older. Which will allow them to both seek and receive medical help consistently, so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their life.

Acute Illnesses

There may be times when you find that your child is suddenly sick. The severity can easily range from a minor cold to something more persistent and concerning. It’s sometimes hard to tell when something is a minor sickness and when you need to seek medical help.

This is especially true given the fact that many children don’t have the means to explain how poorly they’re feeling. Because some sicknesses may be new to them, they haven’t yet gone through what it means to be nauseous, to have pain in certain areas, or how to communicate those pains to a parent.

Here are a few ways to tell if you should go see your PCP for acute illnesses:

  • Persistent fever
  • Labored breathing
  • Wheezing 
  • Refusal to eat meals for more than a day
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Symptoms not improving after 2 days

It’s not always easy to tell, but consider your child’s normal behavior and what it is when you suspect they’re quite sick. If they’re no longer interested in things they once enjoyed or are choosing to rest often when they normally can’t sit still, consider bringing them in to see your PCP.

Behavior Challenges

Kids can start acting differently for any number of reasons. They could have experienced something unsettling at school (like bullying). They could be sick and unsure how to communicate that discomfort, which impacts their mood.

Some behavioral challenges also have to do with your child’s mental health.

Being aware of mental health, and the effects certain conditions can have, is vital for your child’s wellbeing. The brain is a part of the body, and if it’s not functioning as it should, intervention is necessary.

No matter the reason you think is the cause of behavioral challenges with your child, you can and should take them in to your doctor in order to assess what could be happening. There are plenty of medical conditions that impact a child’s ability to sleep, focus, play, and operate in a healthy way, which can cause their behavior to become unpredictable and even harmful.

Referrals to Specialists

Another instance you’ll find yourself bringing your child to the doctors is if they were referred to a specialist. This often happens at a separate visit to the doctor’s, usually for what seems to be an acute illness.

Most primary care physicians are generalists in medicine. They can look at the body as a whole, and make diagnoses accordingly. However, there are some conditions that fall outside the scope of your PCP. They can pinpoint a potential cause of the problem from a body-region perspective, and that allows them to refer you to a specialist who has much more knowledge and experience in that area.

Specialists will take a zoomed-in look at the problem, run more specific tests, and be able to provide a full diagnosis and treatment for certain health challenges. 

Always take the doctor up on seeing the specialist. If your PCP is telling you that a condition needs to be looked at further, but they cannot look close enough at it, it’s very important to understand how necessary a specialist is. These are often more serious conditions that need to be treated in order for your child to be healthy.

Remember, you’re better safe than sorry! While there are certainly times when all your child needs is rest and fluids, there are other times when you should take them in to see a doctor. Make sure to communicate with your child, and always encourage them to speak up when they’re not feeling like their normal selves.

Need to schedule a wellness visit? Click here to book your appointment!

Dr. Bertie Bregman
Dr. Bertie Bregman
Full Stack Family Medicine is a newsletter about what it’s really like to practice medicine and run a medical practice in New York City.
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