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Are kids’ checkups worth it? What you need to know about well-child visits
Parents often wonder, what’s the best way to keep kids healthy? This question is now more important than ever given the COVID-19 pandemic, and many doctors are now offering virtual and telehealth visits so your children can still get their well-care visits and you can have peace of mind your child has been checked. Regular checkups help children stay strong, and help you as a parent be informed and make good choices for your child.
“Well-child” visits are important because they can prevent illness. Vaccinations help children’s immune systems fight off infections like measles and the flu. That means fewer sick days for you too. After all, one sick day for your child often turns into two for you: once when you’re caring for them, and another when you get sick yourself.
Kids grow and change so quickly. The pediatrician will check your child’s height and weight to make sure their growth is on track. She’ll ask questions about your child’s development, such as how many words they can say. And she’ll note which milestones your child has hit and recommend extra help if they need it. Each age has different needs, so the doctor will have new information for you at every visit.
A well-child visit is also an opportunity for you to ask questions. Ask about your little one’s behavior, sleep routine, eating habits, learning challenges — anything goes. There are so many things that weigh on a parent’s mind; getting clear answers can be a great help.
Finally, you’ll get to know your child’s doctor. That way, your child will feel more comfortable visiting the office when they’re sick or injured. And the doctor will be able to compare your child’s vital signs to when they were well.
Follow this age-by-age schedule to well-child visits, vaccinations and keeping your growing child happy and healthy. Stay up to date with vaccine recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children should also receive the recommended booster for DTap at age 16.
The checkups kids need at every age
With Aetna Better Health, well-child visits are fully covered.
Babies (under 1 year)
See the doctor at:
- 3-5 days old
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
Babies gets shots to prevent measles, whooping cough and other serious infections.
The doctor can give you smart tips on how to prevent falls, protect your baby in the car, and keep her safe when sleeping.
Sleep & Feeding
Learn more about breastfeeding, formula feeding, and getting your baby to sleep faster.
Concerned about stubborn diaper rash? Can’t figure out why your baby is crying? The doctor can offer personalized advice so you have less to worry about.
Toddlers & preschoolers (ages 1-4)
See the doctor at:
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 24 months (2 years)
- 30 months (2 ½ years)
- 3 years
- 4 years
Get age-appropriate info on handling outbursts and disobedience and encouraging good behavior.
The doctor will ask about your child’s behavior, language skills, and other milestones and suggest help if needed.
Talk about your child’s eating habits to make sure she’s eating the right foods to stay healthy.
School-age kids (ages 5-10)
See the doctors once a year.
Not only do they prevent illness, but they’re required for school.
Hearing, Vision & Teeth
Kids should see an eye doctor and dentist, too. But a pediatrician will check for problems between those visits.
The doctor will look for warning signs of health problems. Often, this can prevent severe issues later.
Preteens & teens (ages 11 and up)
See the doctor once a year.
Older kids should have some time to talk with the doctor one-on-one about their health. This helps them learn to take care of their own bodies and minds.
Parents don’t always notice signs of depression and anxiety, so having a doctor check for problems is important.
Let teens ask questions about drugs, sex, and troubling feelings. The doctor can be trusted to tell them the facts.
Tips to make the most of your child’s well-visit
Get on a schedule.
Some parents like to take their kids for checkups around their birthdays. Others time their visits for the beginning of the school year. No matter when you go, being on a regular schedule will help you remember. Making your next appointment while you’re there can also help.
Make a list of questions.
Don’t forget all those things you’re wondering about. Keep a list and share it with the doctor at your next visit.
School, daycare, camp, and sports teams may need certain records or forms filled out or signed by a doctor. Bring those too. It will save you a trip later.
When to get them and what they can prevent.
HepB: Birth, 1-2 months, 6-18 months
Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause vomiting, jaundice, and fever and can lead to long-term health problems.
RV: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months
Rotavirus can cause fever, vomiting, and dehydration.
DTap: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, 4-6 years, 11-12 years
The DTap vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).
Hib: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12-15 months
Hib vaccine protects against Haemophilus Influenza type b, which can lead to meningitis or pneumonia.
PCV13: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12-15 months
This vaccine protects against pneumococcus, which can cause pneumonia and severe complications.
IPV: 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, 4-6 years
IPV protects against polio, a virus that can cause paralysis.
This is the flu shot.
MMR: 12-15 months, 4-6 years
MMR protects against measles, mumps, and rubella viruses.
Varicella: 12-15 months, 4-6 years
The varicella shot protects against the virus commonly called chickenpox.
HepA: 12-23 months
Hepatitis A can cause fever, stomach pain, fatigue, vomiting, and jaundice and can cause serious liver complications.
HPV: 11-12 years
The human papillomavirus can cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar and penile cancers, as well as genital warts.
MenACWY: 11-12 years, 15-16 years
This vaccine protects against meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis or blood infections.
Kids who are behind on their vaccines can catch up. Talk to your doctor to learn more. Recommendations may vary for children with certain health or lifestyle conditions.
About the author
Elena Donovan Mauer is a writer and editor specializing in health, parenting, lifestyle and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Parenting, The Bump, CafeMom, Real Simple and other publications. She lives in the Hudson Valley of New York with her husband and two sons.