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Learn About Preventive Care for Your Child
Preventive care is an approach to health care that seeks to detect and, essentially, prevent diseases. Many diseases, illnesses and conditions are preventable or very treatable if detected early. Most preventative care services are completed once per year, and this approach is typically sufficient for many children. Newborns and toddlers are required to visit a doctor’s office more frequently to make sure they are developing and growing properly.
Preventive care involves all of the routines, tests and medications necessary to maintain health in a child. Undergoing routine care services reduces the risk of illnesses, early death, expensive health care bills and future disability. Taking proper measures includes going to all recommended doctor checkups, getting vaccinations, undergoing the necessary tests and screenings, and practicing healthy habits outside of the doctor’s office. Continue reading below to gain an understanding of what preventative care is and how it can help your child stay healthy.
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Learn About Doctor Checkups
Going to a doctor checkup is fundamental to preventing diseases and maintaining your child’s health. For children, these are often referred to as well child visits. Monthly newborn and yearly child and teen checkups are free under most insurance plans through CHIP. All of the tests and vaccines conducted during the checkup are often also free of charge.
The First Appointment
A child’s first doctor checkup is conducted when he or she is born. During this appointment, many body measurements are taken and, depending on your doctor, a vaccine shot or two may be given. Right after a baby is born, he or she receives an eye ointment, vitamin K shot, Hepatitis B vaccine and a hearing test. A follow up appointment at a pediatrician is encouraged to be scheduled one week after the delivery. At this newborn doctor appointment, the pediatrician performs physical measurements, examines developmental milestones, discusses patterns and routines at home, and administers any other necessary vaccinations.
What to Expect at Well Child Visits
There are several procedures that parents and children can expect at all well child visits, and some that may be specific to certain age groups. At doctor checkups, children are weighed and their heights are measured. Infants and toddlers also get their heads measured. These measurements are used to track growth during the first few years of development. Older children’s measurements are examined against a body mass index (BMI) chart to ensure they are developing appropriately in relation to their age.
At a well child visit, parents can expect for a doctor to inquire about how the child is developing and what his or her routines and habits are. Vision, hearing and oral health are also checked at a doctors checkup. Newborns are subject to a newborn screening in which they are examined for lead and oxygen levels, hearing issues, autism and other conditions. At certain checkups, children will also receive vaccines.
Learn About Vaccinations
Vaccines are a crucial part of preventative care. They help to keep your child from contracting life-threatening diseases. They help to boost the immune system by exposing it to dead or weakened versions of potentially dangerous diseases, giving it a chance to “learn” how to combat these diseases without the risk of your child becoming sick. Common immunizations include flu shots, chicken pox immunization and the tetanus vaccine. Administering vaccinations to children has saved millions from suffering deadly diseases like measles. While some children may develop a reaction to a vaccine, the shots are still very safe, and the likelihood of an allergic reaction being serious is slim.
What is a vaccination schedule?
Children are encouraged to get certain shots according to an immunization schedule. Many shots are administered in the first few years of life. Other shots are given in stages throughout the developmental years. Some vaccines, like influenza, need to be re-administered yearly because of how many strains of the virus there are. Other vaccinations require regular booster doses.
Learn About Routine Tests, Exams and Screenings
Newborns and children are subjected to different preventive health screenings at different points in their development. These tests are used to find any potential conditions or illnesses. If a preventive care test or screening results is positive for a certain disease or predisposition, then doctors will usually move on to the next steps, which involve further testing and eventually, a treatment plan.
A newborn screening involves taking a sample of blood and examining it for many different disorders that can be found through the blood sample. Different states check for different conditions. One state may examine 40 parameters while another checks 65. However, all states are required to check for at least 35 of the most common conditions. After reaching three years old, children are given mental health tests, regular blood screenings and tests, hearing and hemoglobin screenings, hepatitis and vision screenings.
Sometimes, doctors order various preventive care screenings and tests if a child seems to be at risk. For example, doctors will often order tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if a teen is sexually active. Doctors also begin testing for cholesterol levels around 11 years of age.
Learn About At-Home Preventive Care
Besides attending the doctor’s office to receive preventive care treatment, parents can practice and encourage other preventive measures to ensure a healthier life for their child. For example, washing hands is an essential preventive care measure to reduce the spread of germs. Feeding children proper and adequate nutrition and keeping them hydrated improves growth, helps all body systems and organs function properly and decreases the risk of disease and malnutrition. Enforcing healthy dietary habits in children sets them up for a more healthy adulthood in which they are at a decreased risk for obesity and heart disease.
Another preventive care measure that parents can do is quit smoking. This helps keep their children’s lungs healthy and reduces the risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions. Parents must also regularly brush their children’s teeth or teach them how to brush themselves and develop a regular routine to practice preventive care. This helps prevent tooth decay and decreases the likelihood of having to use CHIP dental coverage for tooth treatment and repair. Encouraging daily activities such as playing outside or participating in a sport while limiting time spent in front of screens can keep kids’ heart healthy and strong.