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A guide for children’s checkups, from birth to teenage years

August 14, 2020 • read

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A guide for children’s checkups, from birth to teenage years

Being a parent doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Kids need medical attention at each stage of their lives to make sure they’re developing properly. It truly does take a village, and a team of healthcare experts, to raise a child. 

If you’re wondering what medical checkup schedule to follow for your child, or want a simple guide for easy reference, we’ve laid it out below. 

Infants and toddlers

Infancy

Wellness checkup, 3-5 days after birth.

A healthcare provider should examine your baby within a week of birth. They’ll check for things like:

  • Head circumference.
  • Baby’s length and weight.
  • How the baby is feeding.
  • Signs of jaundice. 
  • General health and wellness.
  • If the baby is up-to-date on screening tests.
  • How the family is adjusting to the new baby.

Infancy and early childhood are crucial time periods for a baby’s healthy growth and development. That’s why your family doctor or pediatrician will need to see your baby a lot, even if they receive a clean bill of health each time. 

Well-child visits

Health checkups, age 1-30 months.

Well-child visits are regular doctor’s visits that ensure your child is healthy, developing normally, and is up-to-date with immunizations. They’re carried out when your child is:

  • One month old
  • Two months old
  • Four months old
  • Six months old
  • Nine months old
  • 12 months old
  • 15 months old
  • 18 months old
  • 24 months old
  • 30 months old

Well-child visits last only 10-20 minutes. They’re meant to be quick check-ins between your child and their doctor. During the visit, the doctor will discuss your child’s eating and sleeping habits, how they’re doing emotionally, and whether they’re developing socially and physically at a typical pace for their age. The doctor will perform a physical examination of heart function, reflexes, temperature, and check for certain conditions like jaundice. Your child will also receive vaccines during their well-child visit according to their immunization schedule. 

Click here to view the provincial and territorial routine and catch-up vaccination schedule for infants and children in Canada.

Childhood

Yearly checkups, 3-5 years old.

Kids become much more autonomous in the 3-5 year age range. They can walk, talk, and run around your home with seemingly unlimited energy. Kids in this age group can transition to yearly checkups if they’re showing good health. 

There are so many new things a young child can do. They’re learning to use the bathroom themselves, form social groups, and take part in conversations. It’s important for their doctor to maintain supervision to see if they’re developing on schedule. Set up a doctor’s appointment if your child is showing any of these signs:

  • Their speech isn’t understood by others. 
  • They have trouble speaking their birth language fluently. 
  • They’re playing aggressively with other children, or don’t want to play at all. 
  • The child is unable to have a conversation. 
  • Your child can’t use the toilet or wash themselves.

If your child displays any of the above signs, they may need a specialist to support them in a certain area. For example, many young children need speech therapists to develop their elocution skills and their confidence speaking publicly. 

Otherwise, yearly health checkups are fine for kids between three and five years of age. 

Checkups every 1-2 years, five years and older

After five years, if your child receives a clean bill of health, they can transition to health checkups every 1-2 years. Your child’s doctor will be the best person to decide on the frequency of appointments at this stage. 

Pre-teens and teenagers

There are lots of physical and emotional changes kids deal with as they enter adolescence. The following appointments are recommended to ensure young patients are developing on-track. 

Checkups every 1-2 years, between 13 and 18 years old

Checkups are still an important part of an adolescent’s healthcare schedule. Your child’s primary caregiver can tell whether there are developmental or mental health concerns to be addressed. During the checkup, your child’s doctor will perform a physical examination, measuring height, weight, blood pressure, and reflexes. The doctor will also keep an eye out for conditions like depression, eating disorders, and signs of substance abuse. 

At this point, your child should start to see their doctor alone. This allows young patients to build a trusting relationship with their healthcare provider. This will come in handy as they mature and have questions about sexuality, drugs and alcohol, and physical health concerns. Some doctors recommend that patients receive privacy during their health appointments starting at the age of 12 years old. It may be appropriate to give your kid privacy at an even earlier age. 

Gynecology appointment, between 13 and 15 years old

When gynecologists meet young patients, they don’t necessarily perform a pelvic examination or do any swabbing. So, if your daughter is worried about that, she can rest easy that her first gynecologist appointment will be more like a conversation. 

Gynecologists educate young patients about sexual health, the developmental stages of puberty, and when to be concerned about difficult periods. They may also talk about menstrual irregularity, infections such as UTIs, and risky sexual behaviours. 

Mental health appointment

While mental health appointments aren’t strictly necessary, they’re a very good idea for every young person. It never hurts for kids to talk about any emotional issues they’re facing with a neutral, compassionate person.  

Adolescence is a tough period of life. Kids are expected to mature rapidly and embrace “cool” behaviours to keep up with their cliques. Add hormones to the mix and it’s no wonder teenagers are often stressed. 

What’s more, half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14. Most cases are undetected and untreated. If left untreated, mental illness can cause people to withdraw from society and turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol. This can alter the course of a teenager’s growth and success as an adult. 

Even if a teenager isn’t showing warning signs of mental illness, it’s good preventative practice to see a therapist at least once. Mental health professionals can help young people process difficult emotions, offer healthy coping skills, and help teenagers love and accept themselves. 

Get some extra help

When everything is said and done, both parents and children will spend a lot of time in the doctor’s office. It’s important for kids and teens to build a healthy relationship with their healthcare providers. This will make them more inclined to participate in regular preventative healthcare as an adult. 

Kids can be little balls of health and energy, but sometimes they come down with some nasty illnesses. If you want to get a physician’s or pediatrician’s advice, you can talk to our doctors from the comfort of your home, on your schedule. 

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