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Child receiving health checkup.

Your Guide to Well Child Checkups

Ensuring your child’s health is a complex, rewarding, and ever-changing process. From birth to adolescence, each stage of life requires regular and detailed checkups. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in collaboration with Bright Futures, has created a guideline for preventive pediatric care. When paired with essential immunizations, adhering to this childhood “calendar” will help your family grow healthy.

Here’s what to plan for from birth to age 21. 

Infancy (Zero to Nine Months)  

Welcome to the infancy stage. This phase is full of wonders, questions, and of course, love! Your baby will undergo rapid changes in their earliest days, which means charting their physical growth is important. They’ll also begin routine physical and mental examinations.
 

  • Body measurements — Length/height, weight, head circumference, weight for length, BMI, and blood pressure. Blood pressure measurement in infants and children with specific risk conditions should be performed at visits before age three).
  • Sensory screenings — Vision and hearing tests.
  • Cognitive development — Behavioral screenings, developmental surveillance, psychosocial assessment
  • Physical examinations/Testing — Blood tests, Bilirubin test, critical congenital heart defect screening, immunizations, Anemia, lead exposure, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B.
  • Oral health — Starting as early as newborn children, health care providers will perform oral health evaluations. This includes a fluoride varnish and fluoride supplementation plan depending on region. 
A young boy plays with building blocks.

Early Childhood (12 Months to Four Years)

During these formative years, children undergo remarkable changes physically, cognitively, and emotionally. They’ll continue to receive standard physical and mental assessments to chart their progress.
 

  • Measurements — Length/height, weight, head circumference, weight for length, BMI, and blood pressure.
  • Sensory screenings — Vision and hearing tests.
  • Cognitive development — Behavioral/emotional screenings, developmental surveillance, psychosocial assessment, autism spectrum disorder screening.
  • Physical examinations/Testing — Immunizations, Anemia, lead exposure, Tuberculosis, Dyslipidemia, Hepatitis B.
  • Oral Health — Fluoride varnish, fluoride supplementation.

Middle Childhood (Five to Ten Years)

 In this phase, children experience increased physical abilities, engage in social interactions, and begin more intensive learning. Head circumference and weight for length measurements will be replaced with body mass index (BMI) tracking.
 

  • Measurements — Length/height, weight, BMI, and blood pressure.
  • Sensory screenings — Vision and hearing tests.
  • Cognitive development — Behavioral/emotional screenings, developmental surveillance.
  • Physical examinations/Testing — Immunizations, Anemia, lead exposure, Tuberculosis, Dyslipidemia, Hepatitis B.
  • Oral Health — Fluoride varnish, fluoride supplementation.
A teenage girl reads a book outside.

Adolescence (11 to 21 Years)

 Adolescence is marked by significant physical, emotional, and social development. As adolescents navigate newfound independence and evolving identities, they encounter unique challenges and opportunities. Drug use and sexual health will become areas of discussion with their care provider. 
 

  • Measurements — Length/height, weight, BMI, and blood pressure.
  • Sensory screenings — Vision and hearing tests. Starting at age 11, hearing screenings will test for high-frequency hearing loss.
  • Cognitive development — Behavioral/emotional screenings, developmental surveillance, psychosocial assessment, alcohol and drug use assessment, depression screenings.
  • Physical examinations/Testing — Immunizations, Anemia, lead exposure, Tuberculosis, Dyslipidemia, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, STIs/HIV, Cervical Dysplasia Screening (in women).
  • Oral Health — Fluoride varnish, fluoride supplementation.

With Them, and You, for Life

AltaMed is your partner at every stage of childhood. Our pediatricians can help you understand unique health factors like family history or medical conditions and build the right care plan. 

We also provide dental and behavioral health services. Get started here or call us at (888) 499-9303

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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A child receiving their vaccine

Protect Your Child with Safe, Effective Immunizations

Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective ways to protect your child’s health. This winter, both children and adults face an increased risk from COVID-19, the flu, and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Staying current on doctor-recommended vaccinations and immunizations will not only keep you and your family safe, but your friends, neighbors, and community as well. 

AltaMed is here to answer your questions about vaccines, including their safety, effectiveness, and which ones to get. 

Why Should I Vaccinate My Child?

Getting your child vaccinated between birth and six years of age protects them from 14 deadly diseases, including measles, mumps, and polio. Vaccinating your child also helps protect people who cannot get vaccinated themselves because they are too young or have certain health problems.

Children are most vulnerable when they are born, and they depend on you to make the right choices to keep them safe. Talk to your doctor about vaccines which you can receive during pregnancy that give your child’s immune system a boost when they are born, such as the RSV or Tdap vaccines

Once your child is born, it is critical to stick to the vaccination schedule provided by your child’s doctor. No matter the age, preventing dangerous diseases outweighs any possible vaccine side effects such as slight pain, swelling, or low-grade fever. These are important steps toward building your child’s immune system during their critical developmental stages.

Routine vaccinations are also needed during the adolescent years. The CDC recommends four vaccines for almost all children ages 9-12: meningococcal, human papillomavirus (HPV), the collective Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and influenza (the flu). Meningococcal diseases are rare but are spread by sharing food and drinks or kissing. HPV is a virus that can cause cancer later in life, and is so common that almost everyone will get it at some point. HPV can cause cancer in both men and women and is often transmitted through sex. 

The Tdap vaccine is a booster for the children’s DTaP vaccine, necessary for older children because the effectiveness of the first vaccine wears off over time. Doctors recommend that all children six months and older receive the flu vaccine every year because the flu virus changes each year.

How Safe Are Vaccinations?

The short answer is very.

Most modern childhood vaccinations have been around for about 60 years. They were developed to stop the spread of infectious diseases that once killed thousands of people each year.

Vaccines are constantly re-evaluated and studied by scientists and researchers. Serious reactions to vaccines are rare, occurring only once in every million doses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Safety Office, the current vaccine supply in the United States is the safest in history.

Are There Rules or Laws about Vaccines?

The State of California requires all children attending public or private school to receive the doctor-recommended immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases. This mandatory vaccination helps keep overall immunity levels high and protects the community members, including other school children, who cannot receive vaccinations.

How Can I Prepare My Family for This Fall and Winter?

In 2023, experts anticipate that flu, COVID-19, and RSV infections will surge as people gather and spend more time indoors. Unfortunately, these viruses can cause serious harm for children, including difficulty breathing (sometimes long-lasting), severe lung problems like bronchiolitis or pneumonia, fever, coughing, headaches, nausea, and more. To protect children, the CDC has established new guidelines for vaccination and immunization: 

  • COVID-19 — Anyone six months and older is encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Most people five years and older only need one dose for strong protection.
  • RSV — Babies 0 to 24 months should be vaccinated during RSV season from October — March.
    • Babies born during RSV season should receive the RSV shot within one week of birth. 
    • Infants under eight months and babies between 8 and 24 months with high-risk conditions can receive a single-dose RSV immunization during RSV season.
    • Pregnant people in their third trimester during RSV season can get an RSV vaccine to protect their newborn babies.
  • Flu — Anyone six months and older is encouraged to get an annual flu vaccine.

At AltaMed, patients six years and older can receive their flu and COVID-19 vaccines in one visit. 

Free Vaccinations at AltaMed

We encourage you to follow your child’s immunizations schedule into adolescence, so your children are protected during every stage of their life. Here at AltaMed, all the vaccinations the CDC recommends are available free of cost! We provide childhood and adolescent immunizations for patients 0-17 years of age.

It’s more important than ever to stay safe and healthy. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to schedule an appointment with your provider to stay on track of your child’s immunization timeline. For information about COVID-19 and RSV, click here.

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School

Help Your Kids Build a Healthy School Routine

Kids look to the adults in their life for direction. It’s up to us as parents and guardians to instill good habits, which include building a healthy school routine.

This is a good way to help improve our children’s overall well-being, academic success, and long-term development. A structured routine not only helps them thrive in school, but also nurtures their physical, mental, and emotional growth.

Elements of a Healthy School Routine

While we can’t control what goes on inside the classroom, we can make our children’s home life a building block for success:

  • Prioritize consistent sleep patterns — Quality sleep is the foundation of a successful school routine. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children aged 6-12 years old require 9-12 hours of sleep per night. Enforce consistent bed and wake-up times to set their internal clock. Create a calming bedtime routine that includes activities such as reading or gentle stretching to signal the transition to sleep.
  • Serve nutrient-rich breakfasts — A nutritious breakfast kick starts your child's day with energy and focus. Add whole grains, lean proteins, and fruits to ensure a balanced meal. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, breakfast can improve brain function and enhance academic performance.
  • Allocate time for physical activity — Regular physical activity supports children's physical health and mental well-being. Aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Include options like biking, walking, or playing sports to keep them motivated and engaged.
  • Create a dedicated study space — This should be a quiet, organized space for homework and study. This environment helps children concentrate and associate that area with focused learning. The Mayo Clinic recommends minimizing distractions and keeping the study space clutter-free.
  • Encourage regular breaks — Short breaks during study sessions can enhance productivity and prevent burnout. The Pomodoro Technique, where work is divided into focused intervals followed by short breaks, is effective for maintaining concentration.
  • Pack well-balanced lunch and snacks — Nutrient-rich lunches and snacks help fuel a child's day. Include a mix of proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Encourage them to stay hydrated with water throughout the day.
  • Support social interaction — Socializing is vital for emotional development. Encourage your child to engage in age-appropriate social activities, whether through school clubs, playdates, or sports teams.
  • Limit screen time — Excessive screen time can impact sleep, mood, and academic performance. The American Heart Association suggests no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day. Set screen time limits and prioritize other activities like reading or outdoor play.
  • Have an evening wind-down routine — As the day winds down, create a calming routine that prepares your child for restful sleep. This can involve activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing.
  • Communicate openly — Ask your child plenty of questions about their day, their friends, activities, etc. Regularly check on their school experiences, challenges, and achievements. Creating a safe space for sharing can help address any issues promptly.

Every child is unique, and the routine you create should be tailored to their individual needs and preferences. By prioritizing sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and a supportive environment, you're setting the stage for your child's success in both school and life.

Here for You

Building a routine takes time. AltaMed can help you lay the foundation of success for your kids. Additionally, our counseling services can assist children in navigating the stress associated with returning to school. We also offer the essential vaccines they need to stay protected and grow healthy.

Get started online or by calling us at (888) 499-9303. For information about vaccine appointments, please visit our vaccine hub.

Your Guide to Well Child Checkups