Well Visits--what's the Point?

Updated on March 28, 2010
M.S. asks from Bloomington, IN
24 answers

why do we go to the doctor when we're healthy? i can understand going when kids are sick... but some one please explain to me why we need to hassle with well visits. my daughter got sick two days after her last well-visit... she was perfectly healthy until then.

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E.W.

answers from Cleveland on

I know most people think well visits are a waste but we have benefited by having a wonderful doctor that noticed some issues with my daughter before they could become serious. She doesn't miss anything and I am thankful for that.

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H.M.

answers from Cincinnati on

I think the biggest reason is to help screen for obvious signs of problems that a doctor can recognize by tracking their height, weight, head size, etc. I know that sometimes they seem like a waste of time, but they are called "preventative" because they try to prevent bad things or catch them early on.

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K.L.

answers from Washington DC on

The visits that are necessary are the ones that involve vaccines. The well visits are an important way to track growth and development. My son went to his last well visit at 15 months and won't go to another until 24 months. The dr office "offered" well visits at 18 mos and 21 mos but I opted to not go to them since he wasn't due for any shots.

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D.W.

answers from Indianapolis on

I think Alexis has the best answer so far - your doctor needs to have a baseline of health to determine when there is illness and reason for concern.

The well-baby visits serve not only as an assessment of growth, but also cognitive development and an opportunity for you to ask questions you need resolution to.

One guy I know said the 12 month well-baby visit and the abdominal check revealed a tumor growing in his son's abdomen that they never would have known was there because as parents, we're intuitive, but not medically trained to know the difference between right and wrong.

Also, because it's preventative, it's usually covered 100% by insurance. We still pay a copay and then receive a credit.

Chances are, your daughter was already incubating an illness that happened to emerge by chance 2 days after her well-baby visit.

I'd encourage anyone to continue having those visits. It would be nice if insurance covered the same for us as adults. Only my instincts and a strangely placed swollen lymph node led to my cancer diagnosis almost 2 years ago - every other medical test showed I was healthy (I was also 7 weeks postpartum and had been receiving excellent care for 10 months).

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K.N.

answers from Cleveland on

Actually to some degree well child visits are for the routine administration of vaccines, and not a lot more. A well educated parent and a little common sense can normally eliminate the need for them. Obviously you want to have a good doctor that knows your child, and you want to be sure to go in even if you just have questions or concerns about development or health, but frequent visits for a healthy child are less likely to prevent something than they are for you to end up with a sick kid.

avoiding the toys and books at the office, washing your hands if you touch anything while there, and setting appointments up after cold and flu season, or first thing in the morning can help you avoid the worst of it though.

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K.B.

answers from Cincinnati on

Well visits are very important--as preventive medicine really is the key to preventing any long term problems.
As someone stated, there are many adult problems that can only be caught with blood work or blood pressure test. Without these test you may not know there is anything wrong because there are no other symptoms. My dad's prostate cancer was just diagnosed at a well check up. He has probably had it for 5 years based on how much of his prostate was in compressed by the cancer. If he would have waited too much longer he may have spread to his bones. A well check up diagnosed my mom's colon cancer...she was 32.
In young children and babies there are many things a parent may not notice or realize is a problem that a ped. would find. Many mentioned growth: if the baby or young child is not growing, gaining weight and such they could be failure to thrive. Without regular visits this could go unnoticed. Too little growth could be evidence of other problems that may take more test.
My relationship with my pedi was important in a diagnosis for my son and get him some special help he needed. They weren't obvious special needs, really minor things I questioned at well visits and turned into something much larger. We also found out he had minor hearing loss.
My neice was anemic and needed to take an iron supplement. It's a simple finger prick they do at a well check up at a certain age. Had the appointment they typical do the test been skipped, the issue may not have been found until it was very late. If anemia gets very bad then there is a need for a blood transfusion. Signs of anemia in children: more tired/sleepy and pale skin. Not something I would otherwise run to do a sick visit for.
There will be a time when well visits are the only visit of the year...we have managed to stay healthy for almost two years now. Only seeing the doctor once a year for both my son and I. If we don't go to that, how do I know there is nothing hidden going on? I also have my list of questions to ask of questionable things going on in his life.
Sorry so long, but I'm very proactive on well visits.

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H.J.

answers from Minneapolis on

If we would have not taking our son to well child checkups we would have not known about the issues with fluid in his brain until later in life and more damage could have been done. Do you think to do simple things like measure your childs head every few months to see how it is growing. There are so many things that can go wrong and doing something as simple as taking them in for a checkup can save life and keep a child from having major health issues. As far as the child getting sick, are you as a parent taking the appropriate measure to keep her from getting the bugs, and can you really link your being sick to the well child checkup I doubt it. I don't think my kids have ever gotten sick just because they went in to see the doctor. If you see a child with a runny nose in the waiting room playing with all the toys be a smart parent and keep your child in your lap, wash hands frequently, even yours. The kids don't have to play with the doctor provided toys in the room, bring your own, be smart about it!

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A.P.

answers from Toledo on

In response to several of the answers and to your question. We don't even get our vaccines at the pediatrician's office but instead go to the Health Department for them per the doctor's suggestion. They would cost much more at the pediatricians. I absolutely believe it is irresponsible as a parent to skip well-visits with your child. You have no idea if they are following a correct growth chart, how their heart sounds, abdomen feels, ears appear, are joints developing correctly, head circumference okay. The questionaire you answered makes sure that your child is reaching the correct milestones. If she is not, early intervention is her best option. You are the mom and your intuition is important, but quite frankly you are not medically trained, and even if you were, you are not objective about your own child. How bad would you feel if you decided to skip them and then found out a couple years later something was wrong and you could have prevented a horrible outcome by simply going to the well-visits. Also, check your insurance information. the Insurance companies are not making money on the well visits and actually, your doctor is not making much from the visit either once the insurance company bargains down the office call. The doctor's value this time to evaluate your child. If your well visit is not satisfying you then find a new pediatrician. Our pediatrician spends an extreme amount of time with us and is very thorough. Even though this is my second child I find the well visits invaluable for knowing how my child is developing. I also do not blindly follow the pediatrician, but instead use my "mother's intuition" in conjunction with what they have found to determine the best course for my child. Sorry this is long, but preventive care is something I feel strongly about.

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J.M.

answers from Boston on

To do things like keep a record of her growth, etc. If you went in after a long stomach bug and thought that your daughter had lost 5 pounds, how would the doctor know if there was no record of her healthy weight? (For example). Yes, she might have picked up a bug at the doctor's office, but she could have gotten it at the supermarket, etc.

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S.P.

answers from Cleveland on

Preventive medicine can be a good thing. Sometimes they can catch something early when there are no symptoms. Your daughter could have picked up some bug at the doctors office from another sick child or was already getting sick. They don't check for normal stuff, just anything that may cause a problem in the future.

C.S.

answers from Charlotte on

The best way for a doctor to assess if you're sick, is to know how your body is when it's healthy.

For example, I have a normally low blood pressure (90/60). If my blood pressure is 110/70, that's a little high for me. Only a doctor that has been assess me on a regular basis would know that.

This is especially important for children. They might well be "sick" and you not even know. The figure prick they get can detect cancer, their height and weight can detect nutritional or hormonal problems. Each year the doctor wants to make sure your child is developing as they should and that there's nothing going on that you as a mom have not noticed. Hope this helps

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S.B.

answers from Kansas City on

I like it because we get to know our doctor. He knows our DD, he knows what she's like when she's well, so when I call with the vague symptoms, they know something might be wrong and let me come right in.

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K.J.

answers from Chicago on

The well child checks are part of PREVENTATIVE medicine, which is the best way to detect problems early on. Your doctor checks her for breathing and heart abnormalities, as well as physiological development and cognitive development. While it may just seem very routine and unimportant to us, the doctor knows exactly what to look for to catch many chronic problems. It is also an opportunity to give the parents information about what to expect in the upcoming months, benchmarks to watch for, and a forum for the parents to present any questions that they have.

One thing for certain, never allow your children to play with any of the toys at a doctor's office, as sick kids play with them all day long, so they're breeding grounds for illness.

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S.W.

answers from Toledo on

The only one making out on that one "again" is the insurance company. Who told you to do "well visits" sounds like a crazy thing to do. Make sure that your children are on a GOOD vitamin regimin and that they stay away from the artificial sweetners high fructose and the dyes in the foods out there. Very important to be on some good supplements.
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Good Luck
S.

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S.G.

answers from Albuquerque on

I think well child checks are important. They are meant to make sure your child is hitting the right milestones. They check speech, motor skills, growth... Without these checks many of us would be worried about silly things, like is our toddler supposed to be buttoning buttons yet, or should they be saying more words. It also gives you a perspective on where they stand with other kiddos they're age.

I know it can be a hassle to take a well child into a sick environment. Maybe you could call your dr. office and ask if you coul be placed in a room imediately for now on. Tell them your concerns, and that your daughter got sick after you came for a well child check. Pediatricians offices are usually so good about working around your needs.

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J.F.

answers from Phoenix on

My pediatrician will be the first to tell you that kids often get sick after going for well visits because of the germs at the doctor's office. Make sure to wash hands and keep hands away from the mouth during and after a trip to the doc. I don't know what age your child is, but it does seem that there are a lot of appointments in the first 2 years. They usually get vaccines at every appointment.

I have 4 children and some things were discovered at routine well-visits that I was not awareof. They include a heart murmur, negative ear pressure, fine motor skill delay and speech delay. All of these things needed further investigation: an exam by a cardiologist, tubes in the ears, physical therapy and speech therapy. Actually, all of those things were for just 1 of my kids. My 3 other kids have been very healthy. Without early intervention my son would have gotten worse, not better. So, the well-visits are to catch even the most subtle things that may not seem like a problem to you. Hopefully they will always say your child looks great and is healthy. But, keep up on the visits. P.S. I do slack on them and put them off longer than I should. And, at age 2, they begin only going once a year.

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M.B.

answers from Dayton on

During a "sick" visit, the dr is focused mainly on the main problem you came in for. During "well" visits, the dr is able to focus her time on the development/progression of your child to detect any potential problems that may be developing. As for Sue saying the insurance companies make out on well visits, that isn't true at all. The insurance company has to pay out the dr for a well check - they don't get any compensation for you using their services more. In fact, the insurance company loses money when you go into the dr since they have to pay part of the dr's charge.

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B.L.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't know how old your daughter is, but at least for the younger kids/babies, its important to make sure they are growing and adequately developing. The docs also monitor to see if they are hitting their milestones, etc. Sometimes, they detect things that we as non-medical professionals would not know about. Also, there's routine vaccinations, etc.... If you don't think you're getting enough out of your well visit, perhaps you should change pediatricians.

Most people think they are healthy, but some come to find that there's something wrong, and I bet that population is grateful for these routine doctor's visits. God forbid it happens, but you never think its you're the one thats vulnerable. Besides, it's a simple visit and doesn't hurt in the long run. I do hear about some kids getting sick in the waiting room from catching a bug from another kid, but as Hannah J. mentioned, there are measures you can take to minimalize that. I think its a small price to pay.

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R.D.

answers from Indianapolis on

I guess your attitude towards well-child visits reflects your attitude to your own MD visits. Being a nurse, I highly believe and encourage these visits. Would you have skipped prenatal visits? They were to follow the progression of your pregnancy, looking for problems you may not have seen. Same with our children. You can't expect someone who doesn't even know your child to be able to take care of them when they are sick. Many times, the only time my child goes to a doctor is for their well-child visit. Good, quality healthcare requires a relationship with your provider. Difficult to have if you never see them.
Good luck on your decision,
R.

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I.G.

answers from Seattle on

I have a split opinion on well visits.
I do believe they make sense, especially for young babies and first time moms. I found it very helpful to receive reassurance from our pediatrician when my daughter was a tiny baby and I was unsure for example whether she was gaining enough weight.

On the other hand, my sister for example is on baby number 4. She only goes to about half of the scheduled well-child exams. She has a pretty good grasp on whether her son is hitting milestones and if she should be concerned or not.

You know, even though it seems like it, they are no mandated and if you feel comfortable you could just make up your own schedule or go whenever you child actually needs to see a doctor.
Good luck!

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S.D.

answers from Indianapolis on

They create a base-line against which a sick child can be judged. They also screen for abnormalities when a child is well.
I have friends who never go to the doctor with their kids, I have friends who see their doctor even more often than the recommended well-check schedule.
Pediatrician's offices are definitely germy. It's important to use good hygiene when you go. Don't sit in the waiting room for too long, don't let kids play with germy toys and books, wash hands frequently (our offices have hand sanitizer in each exam room, so we use it as soon as we get in the room. Then we use some after we leave the office.

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M.W.

answers from St. Cloud on

I think the well visits for kids are MOSTLY a joke........ It's the only way they are going to get you in there to make sure you vaccinate.

We took our daughter to her first couple and they did pretty much NOTHING! Weighed her and measured her. THAT"S IT! (We do not vaccinate, after many months of research.)

And even when we decided to take her to one when she was a couple years old because the paper we got in the mail said that at that age well child visits included hearing and eye screening, THEY DIDN"T DO ANYTHING THEN EITHER! Just the height, weight, listen to her heart. I had to fill out a paper about what she could all do!

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A.G.

answers from Norfolk on

Because in principle you want your Doctor to know what your child is like when they are well so that they can recognize changes when they are sick. Your child also needs exposure to the doctor so they will be comfortable. That may not be as effective these days since doctors see so many patients they probably don't remember them very well. Also things like shots and tracking development are best done when your child is healthy and acting normally for them. Also what if there is something that is going unnoticed like an asymptomatic ear infection or a sudden slowdown in growth? Well visits catch these things as well as help to educate you on what you can do to help your child develop.

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A.L.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi M.,
Trust me I can understand you question, but after working in pediatrics for 7 years I can tell you that well child appointments are extremely important. If your child is not seen when they are healthy there is no way to track if they are growing and developing normally for their bodies. I can tell you one specific example of a child that thank goodness the mom never missed a well child appointment. The baby was 9 months old and had been developing completely on track until her 9 month appointment. At that appointment her head circumferance changed drastically from all previous visits. Luckily the doctor knew that she did not just have an oversized head because he had the previous measurements to compare the drastic change. She ended up having hydrocephalus(water on the brain) and needed surgery to have a shunt placed to drain the fluid properly. She went on to have a normal life thankfully. I know this is an example of a baby, but conditions can be detected in older children also if the doctor has record of what is "normal" for that particular child to compare current data with. Everything else they have to go by is statics. Sorry this is so long, but I hope it helps.
A.

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