Regular well-child doctor exams are essential to keeping kids healthy and up-to-date with immunizations against many serious diseases.
A checkup also is a chance for you to talk with the doctor about developmental and safety issues and to ask any questions you have about your child's overall health.
What to Expect at the Doctor's Office
At a typical well-child visit, your child will be weighed and measured and these results will be plotted on growth charts for weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). Using these charts, doctors can see how kids are growing compared with other kids the same age and gender. The doctor will take a family and medical history and perform a complete physical examination.
Your child may be screened for anemia, lead poisoning, tuberculosis, high cholesterol, or other specific conditions. The doctor also will ask about your child's eating habits.
At this age, most kids should have had these recommended immunizations:
Your child should also get the flu vaccine every year, ideally before flu season begins. Kids who are at high risk for developing meningococcal disease, a serious infection that can lead to bacterial meningitis, might need the meningococcal vaccine.
The doctor will make sure all immunizations are up-to-date and check developmental progress.
Questions will be asked about your child's behavior and specific developmental milestones. Doctors also give a screening test to help identify developmental delays and autism at the 24- or 30-month visit.
Child safety is another topic doctors discuss at well-child visits. The doctor will reinforce the importance of using car seats, closely supervising kids around swimming pools, preventing poisoning, not smoking around kids, and using sunscreen. In homes with guns, weapons and ammunition should be stored separately and kept locked at all times.
When to Call the Doctor
Certain symptoms warrant a call to your doctor, as they may indicate a possible infection or a chronic medical condition. These include:
- changes in weight or eating habits
- changes in behavior or sleep patterns
- failure to grow in height as expected
- fever and your child appears sick
- long-lasting or frequent vomiting or diarrhea
- severe or long-lasting irritability or tiredness
- signs of a skin infection or a long-lasting rash
- long-lasting cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, or other breathing problems
- localized pain, such as that often seen with an ear infection
Common Medical Problems
On average, young children have 6 to 8 colds a year and may have several bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. Ear infections are also common.
Sleep difficulties and behavior or discipline concerns are very common at this age and are a frequent source of questions for parents — as well as frustration. Your doctor is a great resource and can offer guidance.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015