Childhood (Newborn to 12 years)
Despite claims that vaccinations are potentially dangerous to children’s health, doctors who specialize in preventive health recommend a full course of vaccines for children starting at one month of age (unless they are in a high-risk category and need to have their vaccines postponed). For children under 12, these vaccinations include:
Children also need an annual flu vaccine, and after age 12, they need a tetanus booster every 10 years. Diseases that were once nearly completely eradicated, like whooping cough, have seen a resurgence in recent years, as the number of children who haven’t been vaccinated against them has increased. It is also recommended that all children be immunized for the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is responsible for the majority of cervical cancer.
Print a suggested schedule from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Your child should have his or her first vision screening before age five, even if you haven’t noticed any eye problems. If there is a problem, an early eye exam will ensure you catch it before it becomes serious.
Visit the Eye Health Learning Center to learn more.
When your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time to rejoice—and to see a dentist. Early examinations will help protect your child’s teeth, and set up a lifetime of good dental health. Follow the first trip with semiannual visits for teeth cleaning and periodontal exams.
Visit the Dental and Oral Health Learning Center for more information.
Blood Pressure Check
High cholesterol and high blood pressure aren’t adult-only diseases. Children and babies can have these health conditions too. The American Heart Association recommends all children ages three and older have annual blood pressure screenings. Children should also have a cholesterol screening before age 10.
Weight and Height Measurement
Your child’s body mass index (BMI) may be the best way to track his or her overall growth and development. BMI is calculated by multiplying weight (in pounds) by 703, and then dividing by height (in inches) squared.
Adolescence (13 to 18 years)
Kids this age should get a yearly checkup or physical. This gives your child’s doctor ongoing view of your child’s health and well-being and enables the doctor to notice any dramatic changes. This appointment also affords your child the opportunity to talk to a health professional about his or her changing body.
Teenagers and adolescents are at temperamental stages in their lives; there’s no escaping that. There’s also no escaping the fact that many of them no longer confide in their parents about problems. Many general practitioners and pediatricians provide an emotional screening during the annual physical. But if they don’t or if you are concerned about your teen’s mood or demeanor or notice signs of an eating disorder, make an appointment to talk with someone.
Visit the Emotional and Mental Health Learning Center to get more information on recognizing emotional problems.
Many middle and high schools provide annual scoliosis screenings to check students for abnormal curvatures of the spine. It’s important that young adolescents have this screening, as scoliosis usually first appears during or following the pre-puberty growth spurt.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends each young woman have her first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 and 15—regardless of sexual activity. This doesn’t mean she will have her first pelvic exam or Pap smear. Instead, the first visit lays the groundwork for future visits and provides an opportunity for the doctor to discuss periods, cramps, sex, and birth control needs.