Primary Care

3 Reasons Not to Skip Well-Child Visits

Posted on Jun 29, 2020 in Primary Care, Scroll Images

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – A lot happens within a child’s mind and body as they grow. Their personalities emerge, their moods shift, and their bodies mature. With so much rapid change, its important they get on a path to being and staying as healthy as possible, and well-child visits can help ensure this happens. While these visits may have been postponed in recent months, now is the time to check back in.

“Well-child visits help track children’s health and development, address parents’ questions or concerns, and provide recommended immunizations to prevent illness,” says Tara Scott, M.D., program director of the Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital Family Medicine Residency program.

Read on for reasons why scheduling your son or daughter’s well-child visit should be high on your list and the precautions Sutter care centers are taking amid COVID-19:

Physical Development

The physical part of a well-child exam may include checking your child’s blood pressure, vision, hearing, height and weight. Are they overweight? Underweight? A doctor will help address these concerns. The doctor may also listen to your child’s lungs, feel their abdomen and check their reflexes.

It’s during this part of the exam a doctor may also ask about sleep, exercise and their social circle.

“Over the course of a child’s life from birth to 18, they may have between 15 and 20 well-child visits, with more taking place in their early years and then annually or every other year as they get older,” says Scott. “Well-child visits are more than an annual physical, however.”

Mental Health & Development

Just as important as physical growth is mental growth.

“Many mental health problems occur early in life and may disrupt a child’s developmental processes,” says Scott.

During well-child visits, doctors may ask open-ended questions that assess a child’s mental and emotional state. Questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up,” “Tell me about what you’re looking forward to this fall,” “What are your favorite subjects in school,” or “What are you and your friends doing over summer break” may reveal a lot about what’s happening inside your child or teenager’s mind.

In times like a pandemic, where a lot of change is happening very quickly, a doctor may be able to uncover early signs of mental health problems that require specialized care. They may also be able to identify common signs of anxiety or depression and put in place interventions to help alleviate your child’s symptoms.

Vaccinations

Regular well-child visits are the time when important and recommended immunizations are given.

The measles vaccine, for example, is first administered between 12 and 15 months, with the second dose given between four and six years old. Measles are actually more contagious than COVID-19. Once a community measles immunization rate drops below 90 percent vaccinated, outbreaks can happen. In 2014, California dropped below this rate and experienced a measles outbreak, and another one in 2019.

According to Dr. Scott, “Keeping up with current recommended vaccinations keeps children safe from other illnesses that may be even riskier than COVID-19.”

Now is the time to schedule well-child visits. Even if your child is feeling OK, preventive care is very important.

Our Current COVID Precautions

Sutter care centers, including doctors’ offices, have implemented specific measures to help protect patients. These steps include:

Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
Isolation – Those with COVID-19 symptoms are treated in separate spaces.
Cleaning – Teams are performing cleaning and disinfecting.
Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering care sites.
Contact-Free Check-In – Skip the front desk and check in from your mobile device at some locations through Hello Patient, a new feature on My Health Online.

Making Conversations Around COVID-19 Kid-Friendly

Posted on Apr 1, 2020 in Primary Care, Scroll Images

How can parents/guardians provide reassurance to children when a lot remains unknown? COVID-19 has changed our world in a short amount of time—and perhaps the course of history—but how can parents talk to kids about it now?

Krystle Balduzzi, M.D., pediatrician at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation, suggests that parents/guardians acknowledge that the situation affects adults just like it affects kids. Families are watching the news or absorbing information via social media trying to find the answers that will make each other feel safe. This is where parents and caretakers can model good behavior by sharing emotions in a healthy way and encouraging children to do the same. “In order to help our kids we need to help ourselves first,” she says. “We need to understand the extreme fluid nature of this whole situation.”

Creating a Safe Place to Share

Most kids know about the coronavirus and will have questions. Dr. Balduzzi suggests parents and guardians need to ask and answer questions about COVID-19 in an age-appropriate way. “Saying everything will be fine or ‘don’t worry about it’ won’t cut it,” she says. “Reassure the child that they are safe and that everyone is working together even though we can’t be with others.”

How IS the Family Helping?

Dr. Balduzzi suggests focusing on ways the family is helping the situation: washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, keeping distance between themselves and others, making sidewalk art for neighbors or donating supplies to those in need. Children may also have questions about when they can return to friends or school. Dr. Balduzzi recommends being honest and saying no one knows yet. Rather, encourage children to help think of other ways to stay connected, like virtual visits with friends, teachers or extended family.

Finding a New Norm

Children crave structure, says Dr. Balduzzi, so getting them back into a schedule as much as possible is key. It’s important for parents and caretakers to get older kids’ input on the structure they would like to create for themselves. For those caring for younger ones, charts can help visually signal how they can stay on track. “We are now their teachers, too, and schools run on schedules, so we should considering doing the same,” she says. Dr. Balduzzi recommends keeping things simple at first: wake up, get dressed, school time, craft time, lunch, outdoor time, etc.

Family Bonds

For those in the immediate household, this is a time to stay close and connected. Hug your child, play with them at their age-appropriate level or cuddle on the couch for a movie. Dr. Balduzzi states that this will help kids feel safe. When kids don’t feel safe, they tend to act out. This behavior change can include temper tantrums, new bedwetting or fear of the dark. For older children, this can include more risk-taking behaviors. “We need to create a safe, calm environment so that their growing minds can process what’s going on around them,” she says. Dr. Balduzzi also emphasizes that it is important for parents to acknowledge that they are human and to always forgive themselves if they have a breakdown. “Sometimes we need to get it out in order to move on,” she says. “These are trying times for everyone and the saying ‘we are all in it together’ never held more meaning than it does now.”