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My Kid is Never Sick: Why You Should Never Skip Your Child’s Annual Physical Exam

child's annual physical exam

There are many reasons for your child’s annual physical exam to be ranked as priority #1 each year.  Taking a medical history in person at least once per year is an important part of the prevention and/or early detection and intervention for myriad health conditions.

It doesn’t matter if your child isn’t complaining, or you don’t notice anything unusual.  These are not good reasons to skip your child’s annual exam.  Your pediatrician will go through a well-child visit checklist, which will protect your child’s overall health!

An Annual Physical Exam Helps with Disease Prevention

American life is busy, and American kids suffer most from lack of consistency.  Additionally, separations and divorces, which lead to raising children in multiple households with other partners and caregivers, jeopardizes consistency.  If you’ve read any of our other family dynamics articles, you’ll find that a regular schedule has a huge impact on the physical, mental and emotional health of kids.  An annual checkup with a medical professional provides a touchpoint for a comprehensive discussion about all aspects of your child’s health.  Also, remember that to get prescription refills, your child must be up to date on well exams.

A Well-Child Visit is the Time to Quiz Your Pediatrician

Making an appointment for your child’s annual physical exam can be your prompt to write down your top three to five questions to ask your pediatrician.  Here are the many topics you might want to discuss:  growth and development, behavior, sleep concerns, nutrition, eating habits, physical exercise, family dynamics and socialization.  Your pediatrician has a wealth of knowledge and can refer you to a bevy of trusted professionals (therapists and medical specialists) for specific concerns.

A Child’s Annual Physical Exam Provides a Team Approach

Parenting isn’t easy!  Team up with your pediatrician to help ensure optimal physical, mental and emotional health for your child.  Annual exams help solidify parent and child relationships with your pediatrician.

Your Child’s Annual Physical Screens and Educates You About Social Concerns and Trends

Part of a pediatrician’s job is to check in with you and your child about bullying, peer pressure, relationship issues, driving safety and more.  Your pediatrician can bring up topics like vaping and other unhealthy activities that parents may not know much about.  As stated above, your pediatrician can be an ally and a third party who your child may take more seriously. (Doubtless you have experienced the phenomenon of your child listening to and accepting a stranger’s advice over yours!)

Many Topics are Covered During a Pediatric Physical Examination

Your pediatrician will take a good look at all physical aspects of your child and recommend further testing to determine specific treatment or a specialist if any abnormalities are present.  Here’s just a broad overview of what a pediatrician covers during a child’s annual checkup.

  • Physical Body Structure: Pediatric physicians can detect abnormalities by examining your child’s gait (manner of walking).   They also evaluate and determine if scoliosis is present or if the child experiences low back pain when touching their toes.
  • Physical Examination for Masses: Your doctor will palpate (examine by touch) many regions of the body to determine if abnormal lumps or swelling are present, which could indicate an injury, infection or cancer.  For example, the groin area (hernia) and the throat (thyroid, lymph nodes and tonsils).
  • Vision and Hearing Examination: If the eyes are turning in or out, a pediatrician will refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist.
  • Skin/Scalp Evaluation: Your doctor will look for dry skin, skin inflammation, seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis.  Excessive bruising may indicate a clotting disorder, which can be ruled out by laboratory studies.
  • Blood Pressure: If a child’s blood pressure is high, a full workup will be ordered to determine the cause.
  • Lungs: A doctor will listen for wheezing or any other abnormal lung sounds that could indicate Reactive Airway Disease.
  • Blood Work: Laboratory studies are requested and collected at a child’s annual physical exam and sent to a lab to detect any disease state (i.e., infections).
  • Urinalysis: Urine is analyzed for the presence of glucose (indicator of diabetes), protein (indicator of kidney disease), or nitrates (indicator of an infection requiring a culture be submitted to determine the bacteria responsible).
  • Mental Health: If anxiety is pronounced in your child, your pediatrician may refer you to a clinical psychologist, family therapist or dialectical behavior therapist (if more severe mood disorders are indicated).

Make Your Child’s Annual Checkup Appointment Today!

Regular talks with trusted medical professionals save lives through prevention and early detection. Getting a yearly checkup is a good habit to start with your kids.  You’ll teach them that it’s a normal and necessary part of life that maximizes their health.  Hopefully, they’ll continue with the habit their entire lives.


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