(BPT) - Most parents bring their children to the doctor when they're sick, but summer is a great opportunity to be proactive and schedule a wellness checkup before school starts. This allows you and your doctor to take a broader look at a child's overall health and well-being to ensure he or she is developing properly.
'Wellness checkups provide more time for parents to ask questions,' says St. George's University alum Dr. Susan Dulkerian, Chair of Pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. 'Rather than waiting until your child is sick or an issue arises, a wellness checkup is an opportunity to take preventive measures, maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep your peace of mind.'
Dr. Dulkerian suggests that every parent should ask the following questions at their child's back-to-school doctor visit.
Are my child's immunizations up to date?
Your child's school may require certain immunizations prior to the first day of class. Work with your doctor to ensure your child is protected from disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides immunization recommendations and schedules for children, teens and adults.
Is my child at a healthy weight for his or her height and age?
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the CDC. A wellness checkup provides the perfect opportunity to ask your doctor about BMI measurement and many other concerns. Your doctor will also be able to suggest prevention ideas and healthy-lifestyle habits for kids.
How much sleep should my child get?
Sleep is a fundamental element of anyone's health and is particularly important for kids whose bodies are still growing. Ask your doctor about proper sleep amounts for your child's age. For example, children aged 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep while 3-5-year-olds typically need 11-13 hours.
Is my child developing normally and meeting milestones?
While every child is unique, each should reach certain mental and physical developmental milestones around similar times from birth to 18 years and beyond. Ask your doctor if he or she has any concerns and which milestones you should expect for your child's age.
How can my child handle anxiety and other mental-health concerns?
Your child's annual checkup isn't just for checking physical health-it's the ideal time to bring up any additional areas of concern where your child may be struggling. For example, is your child experiencing anxiety about starting a new school year? Having trouble dealing with body changes during puberty? Is he or she struggling academically? Your physician is a great resource who can help your child work through these issues and recommend a specialist if need be.
What do you recommend if my child is being bullied?
Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. Bullying is a hot topic and many kids keep issues like this to themselves. Parents can be advocates by asking doctors how issues should be handled properly.
'Make a list of your top concerns and present them to your doctor at the beginning of the visit to ensure you get all the information you need,' advises Dr. Dulkerian. 'Talk with anyone who may care for your child, such as a daycare provider or grandparent, for further input before your child's checkup appointment.'
If you are interested in a career in medicine or would like to learn more, visit www.sgu.edu/future-students.