The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown all of our schedules a bit off, but if your child is behind on their well-child visits, now may be the perfect time to get them back on track and ensure proper monitoring of all aspects of their physical and mental health.

Child Health, Primary Care | 3 months ago

Well-Child Check Now, Well Child Later

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown all of our schedules a bit off, including our routine wellness appointments. So, if you child is behind on their well-child visits, you're not alone. Now may be the perfect time to get them back on track and ensure proper monitoring of all aspects of their physical and mental health.

You wake your child up one morning and immediately notice something is off. Your child is coughing, their nose won’t stop running and they have a bit of a fever. Without hesitation, you pick up the phone to call their pediatrician for an appointment. 

But when your child isn’t sick, you may not think bringing them in to the pediatrician is necessary. Preventive care in children, particularly in the form of well-child visits, could actually identify key risk factors that could lead to poorer health and literacy in children. 

Pediatricians across the country are seeing an alarming trend – parents and children missing or delaying these well-child visits, an issue that has been amplified since the onset of COVID-19, as parents fear potential exposure during a visit to the doctor’s office.

Lyn Nuse, MD, specialty medical director of primary care pediatrics at Atrium Health Levine Children's, aims to reassure parents that pediatric practices are safe.

“I feel completely confident that our offices are some of the safest places people can go in terms of their risk for being exposed to COVID-19 or any infection right now,” she says.

Well-child visits are a crucial aspect of children’s care and delaying these visits could potentially pose a risk for children.

During well-child visits, in addition to monitoring your child’s growth and physical development, pediatricians are screening for multiple conditions that can impact children. “The sooner we can identify a potential problem, the sooner we can start to intervene and the easier it will be to adapt and have a plan in place to support them moving forward,” says Dr. Nuse. “Delaying well-child visits and the potential to identify these issues can also delay that care and we may miss the window of opportunity to help a child reach their promise or recover some of their abilities.” 

What’s a Well-Child Visit Anyway? 

At Levine Children’s, we recommend a series of well-child visits starting just days after a newborn comes home from the hospital. In infants, these visits begin every two months, then spread out to every three months, every six months and eventually to once a year by the time a child is three years old. 

“Well-child visits are an opportunity to look at the whole child,” explains Dr. Nuse,“from both a physical and mental health perspective as well as growth and development perspective.” 

It’s more inclusive than the annual physical exam that many adults may get. 

“We really want to be able to dedicate our focus to identifying risk factors and potential conditions that may impact a child’s health, not just now but in the future,” says Dr. Nuse. 

That includes paying specific attention to how newborns and young children are growing, from gaining weight properly, to growing in height and their head circumference because all of these things can be signs of a child’s overall state of health. 

Pediatricians are looking out for the entire family as well. They’re looking for things such as maternal depression with young infants because mom’s health is incredibly important to the child’s health. 

“A lot of what we do also takes into consideration how things are going for the family as a whole,” says Dr. Nuse.

More Than Just Vaccines

Many parents think of well-child visits as a way to keep them on a vaccination schedule. This is true, to a point, but these regular well-child visits also give pediatricians an opportunity to observe your child’s overall physical and mental health well beyond vaccinations, with far reaching implications. “Wellness care for your child is just as important as getting them care when they’re sick,” Dr. Nuse says. “It’s an important part of their daily lives.”

Some of the screenings conducted in early childhood well-visits include looking for social determinants of health – how a family is doing and if there are things going on that we may be able to help with that will also help the child grow and develop as healthy as possible to reach their full potential.

As children grow, well-child visits will also screen for developmental issues including autism as well as how older children are adjusting at school, from their ability to pay attention to learning to read. Pediatricians will also look at the risk behaviors of older children and teenagers, screening for things like drug and alcohol use, sexual activity as well as depression and anxiety. 

“All of these things are vital to knowing how a child is doing from an overall health standpoint,” Dr. Nuse says, “and not something we really have an opportunity to talk about when they’re coming in for strep throat.” 

COVID-Safe Care 

Levine Children’s is committed to COVID-Safe care across all of our facilities. 

“We have created the safest environment possible in order to limit risk of exposure for patients and staff,” says Dr. Nuse. “Parents can rest assured that our practices are doing everything we can to protect their children during this time, and they should not delay their children’s care due to COVID-19.”

Overall, Dr. Nuse’s message to all parents is clear:

“We’re here. Wellness care is just as important as other aspects of your child’s care and if it has been a while since you’ve been in, we’re here and would love to see you.”

Contact your child’s pediatrician to schedule a well-child visit, or go online to learn more about pediatric primary care services at Levine Children's.

Learn more about why coming back in for care as COVID-19 restrictions ease is so important.