Pediatrics | Published March 29, 2017

Ask the pediatrician: How often should I take my child to the doctor?

Hi Dr. C.,

How often do you recommend taking children to the doctor? My eight-year-old son last went to the doctor about a year ago when he had the flu.

Unless your son is sick, you may not feel like he needs to go to the doctor. However, I highly recommend that your son go to the doctor once a year for a well-child visit. A well-child visit can provide key insights to your son’s health and keep him on the right track into adulthood.

  • Growth – Well-child care allows your pediatrician to assess the growth of your child and determine if there are any abnormalities. Appropriate assessment and treatment can happen if there are issues. Lacking well-child care results in missing specific opportunities for intervention during a particular phase of your child’s growth.
  • Development – Watching your child develop in multiple areas including speech, fine motor and gross motor skills, and social interaction is a huge priority through the early years. Well-child care is the best chance to keep track of young children’s development so that any delays can be found and appropriate therapies are put in place.
  • Immunizations – Immunizations are perhaps the most important tool we have for protecting children (and adults) against disease. Regular checkups allow for kids to get the needed vaccines at the right time following the immunization protocol. Immunizations are not given when children are feverish and sick so well visits are the most opportune time for getting needed vaccines.
  • Nutrition and exercise – Well-child visits offer a great opportunity to make sure your child is eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables and staying active.
  • Physical exam – A routine physical exam can be a great tool to pick up on changes that may not have been seen or discovered by the patient or their parents. Whether it is a new heart murmur, a changing mole on the skin, earwax buildup, etc., these issues are often found during routine physical exams.
  • Getting questions answered – Well-child care visits are great times to discuss questions about your child with your pediatrician and get some advice and guidance from an experienced provider. As a helpful tip, make a list of questions ahead of time so you don’t forget what to ask.
  • Chronic illness update – Well-child care is especially important for kids with chronic illness in keeping them healthy and out of the hospital.
  • Refilling medications – A well visit is the perfect opportunity to get refills for your child’s chronic medications, should they need them for some reason. This could be as simple as fluoride for your child’s teeth or medicine to combat allergies.
  • Recommendations for safety – Safety is a big concern for kids and their parents, and well-child care gives them the opportunity to talk to their pediatrician about specific activities and how to do them as safely as possible.
  • Developing a relationship with your doctor – It’s important to give your pediatrician the chance to know both you and your child so that they have a good baseline to recognize if changes are occurring. This especially holds true for kids with chronic illness.

For more information your child’s healthcare needs, talk to your child’s doctor or visit kids.mountnittany.org.