July 4, 2018 / 3:07 PM / 4 months ago

Plan ahead for child's doctor visits, experts say

(Reuters Health) - Parents can make the most of their time at their child’s routine pediatrician visits by preparing for each appointment, according to a new resource published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children see a pediatrician regularly and often during their first three years of life.

“Parents’ time is becoming more and more precious, and these appointments are so frequent, that we want to help people make the most of that time,” said Dr. Maheen Quadri of Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who co-wrote the one-page primer intended for parents and caregivers.

“One of the most important things we do during these visits is give vaccines,” Quadri said in a phone interview. “Before appointments, it’s important to know what’s up-to-date.”

The freely accessible patient page (bit.ly/2MJ6OyI) emphasizes the best ways for parents to prepare children and their medical files before meeting with doctors.

“It’s also really valuable to have that one-on-one time with a doctor, especially when we have so many resources online with different medical advice,” she said. “Having that connection with a person who has expertise can be a source of support as you go through the new experience of parenting.”

Quadri and co-author Megan Moreno of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison first recommend knowing your child’s history and family’s history to ensure that medical records are accurate and up-to-date. Don’t forget to transfer them if seeing a new clinician, and consider taking a folder with your child’s records to appointments.

The doctor will ask questions about your child’s health, your family’s health and your child’s development at every visit. It helps to be familiar with developmental milestones, such as crawling, walking, and different phases of talking. The doctor may ask you to fill out development questionnaires to assess how your child’s growth is progressing, so pay attention to these milestones between visits.

“Many parents don’t realize that yearly health supervision or ‘check-up’ visits are recommended for children age 3 (years) and up as well,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu of Children’s Medical Group in Atlanta, Georgia, who is also medical editor of HealthyChildren.org.

“When children are younger and making frequent visits to the pediatrician for routine immunizations and the expected toddler illnesses, going to the doctor is top-of-mind,” she told Reuters Health by email. “Once kids start elementary school, check-ups can fall out of habit.”

The patient resource also recommends bringing a list of questions about health and development topics to visits. For questions about movements or behaviors, for instance, consider bringing a picture or video. For children who take medicine, including inhalers, it helps to bring the drugs to the visit to confirm current doses and ask any questions.

It’s also important to talk to your child before the visit to prepare for it. This can depend on your child’s age and maturity, but in general, it is best to be as honest as you can about the visit and what it will involve, including undressing or physical exams. Talk about the possibility of shots and blood tests, and explain that these are normal to do. Try to schedule a fun activity after the visit to reward your child for a job well done, and avoid describing doctor visits or vaccines as punishments or part of behavior negotiations.

For the times when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, consider bringing drinks, snacks, books and toys. Think of this as protected time you get to spend with your child.

“I encourage parents to pick a time of year that’s convenient and easy to remember so it becomes a yearly routine,” Shu said. “For example, some of my patients like to bring all of their kids at the same time while on summer break.”

Shu takes her daughter to the pediatrician every fall on her birthday so she can get a flu vaccine at the same time. Other parents plan annual check-ups when school, sports or camp forms are needed.

“Some families have experiences with the healthcare system that aren’t always the most positive, and seeing a doctor often can seem uncomfortable or strange,” Quadri said. “We’re here to support parents, answer their questions and monitor their child’s development over time.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2MJ6OyI JAMA Pediatrics, online June 25, 2018.

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