Kevin U. Stephens Sr.
- dr. Kevin U. Stephens Sr. is the medical director of UnitedHealthcare of the MidSouth.
Now that the school season is upon us, it is important to ensure that your child is both physically and emotionally ready for the school year by planning a visit with your child.
Well-child visits are annual doctor’s appointments for preventive health services that are essential to a child’s growth and tracking developmental milestones. The visit to the child is also the time for routine vaccinations to prevent diseases such as measles, polio, hepatitis B, chickenpox, whooping cough and other serious illnesses.
Like vaccines, which prevent physical health problems, speaking to your child’s primary care physician regularly about mental health problems is also an essential part of overall preventive care. The annual well-child visit is an opportunity to talk to your child’s doctor.
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It’s best to have these conversations when problems or warning signs first appear so that your doctor can take the appropriate steps to best treat them. If you’re not sure what questions to ask your child’s GP during an annual visit with your child, consider the following:
- Ask which vaccines are appropriate for your child’s age and how to make up for missed vaccines. You can check out this full list of vaccines for children and adolescents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In addition to other childhood vaccines, both flu and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended by the CDC for anyone 6 months and older. If you are concerned about childhood vaccines, ask about common side effects, which are usually very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site, and may include a low-grade fever or rash.
- Bring up any changes in your child’s behavior. Some common warning signs that your child’s mental well-being is not where it should be include persistent sadness, withdrawal from or avoidance of social interactions, outbursts of extreme irritability, drastic changes in mood, behavior or personality, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, frequent headaches or abdominal pain, difficulty concentrating, showing changes in academic performance, or avoiding or missing school.
- Ask for advice on how best to support your child. Whether you’re concerned about your child’s diet, exercise, sleep patterns, or behavioral changes, your child’s primary care physician is a good place to start. With so many young children experiencing mental and emotional health issues, it is important to create opportunities for them to share how they are doing. Keep in mind that these may be sensitive topics for your child to discuss. Empathy and patience go a long way in helping children and adolescents to feel heard and at ease.
- Do not forget to bring your sport physical forms. It is nice if your child participates in school sports. And it’s an opportune time to make sure your doctor knows your child is a student athlete and address any concerns like nutrition, previous injuries, and family history.
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- If necessary, ask for recommendations for other healthcare professionals. For example, if your child hasn’t seen the dentist in a while, their vision screening shows they need to see an eye doctor, or their mental health screening raises concerns, ask which health care professionals on your plans say they would like. to advise.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to schedule an appointment for your child to get your child off to a healthy start to the school year. Regular visits to your child are essential to ensure that your child is up to date on vaccinations and that their developmental milestones are on track, including their mental well-being.
To learn more about recommended preventive care for your child, visit UHC.com.
dr. Kevin U. Stephens Sr. is the medical director of UnitedHealthcare of the MidSouth.