Well Child Visits Can Catch Surprise Medical Problems

Pediatrician examining baby.

When John’s* parents brought him in for his 14-year-old annual well child visit, he felt fine. However, the Care Team at Open Door Community Health Centers discovered during their check that he was suffering from an inguinal hernia, where his intestine was bulging through his abdominal muscles. Thanks to this visit, the providers helped John get necessary surgery and he was able to start school in the fall with all of his friends and even play on the JV basketball team.

Parents know that they should go to the doctor when their child is sick. But regular visits with your medical provider or care team, often referred to as “well child visits”, are just as important when children are healthy. Well child visits provide an opportunity for parents to get information from their child’s care team about what to expect as children grow and develop. This is also a time to talk about other important health and wellness topics, such as safety, childhood diseases, family relationship issues, school, and access to community resources.

As with John’s case, well child visits can also catch health problems that may not have been evident. Doctors Leslie Fittinghoff and Devin Wong, both Pediatricians at Open Door Community Health Centers’ Eureka site, have several stories about health concerns that were caught by Open Door’s care teams thanks to parents bringing their children in for regularly scheduled appointments. One such story is of an infant who was brought in for a standard 2-month well child visit. Dr. Fittinghof realized that the child had a heart rate of 300 beats per minute, while a normal range is 120-160. Open Door’s care team was able to transfer the child to a hospital where a diagnosis was made and a treatment plan established. Dr. Fittinghoff said, “When the child came back to us for his 4 month visit, we were very pleased to see that his treatment plan was working and he was growing and developing well.”

Dr. Wong highlighted the crucial role that well child visits play in assessing and addressing dental and mental health care problems for children. “Open Door’s care teams have caught many early dental cavities during our well child visits, and we are very excited to now be able to provide fluoride varnish for kids under 5 years old during their regular medical visit.” Additionally, one child who came in for their regular visit had a positive screening for Autism. Open Door’s team referred the family to a local regional center to get comprehensive support services. Because of this early diagnosis, the child now has access to specialized programs and is receiving timely care to support their behavioral health development.

Success stories like these are important reminders for why well child visits are so important, and most insurance plans cover the cost of these appointments. Contact your local health care provider to find out if your child is due for a well child visit.

Open Door Community Health Centers: www.opendoorhealth.com 707.269.7073 (Humboldt) 707.465.1988 (Del Norte) | Eureka Pediatrics: www.eurekapeds.com 707.445.8416 (Eureka) 707.839.3377 (McKinleyville) | Redwood Pediatrics: 707.725.9355 (Fortuna)

*Patient names referenced in this article are not real.