As a child I remember my mom ferrying my brother and me into a variety of medical waiting rooms at regular intervals. Now, as a mother myself, I wonder, How did she do it? How did she know who we had to see and when we had to see them?
I'd love to have the equivalent of the maintenance chart in the owner's manual of my car -- a list of necessary health examination dates for my children that could be neatly ticked off much as we tick off the tune-ups for our minivan.
To help with your child's “maintenance chart,” here's our run-down of the who, when and why of childhood health-care visits.
Who: Family doctor/pediatrician
When: The Rourke Baby Record, a guide for physicians caring for children in the first five years of life, recommends check-ups starting in the first week of your baby's life with frequent follow-up visits for young babies. Older children should have yearly appointments. This record is the Canadian Paediatric Society's (CPS) version of the above-mentioned health checklist. It gives a detailed outline of the timing of visits along with information on what to expect at each appointment. Best of all, you can download your own copy from the CPS website.
Why: According to Danielle Grenier, medical affairs officer for the CPS, yearly check-ups are important to monitor growth and development, detect problems as early as possible, administer immunizations and build a trusting relationship with patients and their families.
Cost: Covered by provincial and territorial health insurance plans.
When: The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) recommends a first visit within six months of your child's first tooth or by one year of age. Dr. Kelly Wright, a pediatric dentist in Brentwood Bay, B.C., says if there are no problems the next visit should be one year later and then approximately every six months depending on oral hygiene, presence of decay and dental history.
Why: The CDA highlights three main reasons children should visit the dentist:
• To find out whether the cleaning you do at home is working;
• To find problems right away and fix them;
• To show your child that going to the dentist is a positive experience that prevents problems.
For more information on your child's first dental appointment visit the CDA website.
Cost: While costs vary depending on your location, your child's age and what services are needed, Dr. Wright charges approximately $35 for a basic first visit. Employee health benefits, if you have them, may cover some or all of the cost.
Page 1 of 2 -- Find helpful advice on how to prepare your child for a doctor's appointment on page 2
When: The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) says children should have their first eye exam at six months of age. If all is well their next visit should be at age three and annually after that.
Why: Lila Cobb with the CAO's Children's Vision Initiative says the six-month visit checks the health of your child's eyes and looks for eye coordination or prescription problems. The three-year appointment monitors general eye health with a specific focus on detecting and preventing amblyopia -- a condition found in two to four per cent of children and best treated at a young age.
To learn more about your child's first visit to the optometrist read “Vision 101” on the CAO website.
Cost: Most provinces cover the cost of children's eye examinations and many employee health benefits programs also offer coverage.
Making the appointment
If you're lucky you already have a family-friendly doctor, dentist and optometrist. If not, how to find one? Word of mouth is the best starting point; ask family, friends and colleagues for their recommendations. If you need to start “cold,” try the following resources:
• To find a dentist visit the website of your provincial or territorial dental association;
• To find an optometrist use the CAO's “Find an Optometrist” tool to search by province, city, or even postal code;
• To find a family doctor visit the website of your area's College of Physicians & Surgeons -- most have a “Find a Doctor” section. Although in some areas it is difficult to find a doctor, don't miss appointments -- visit a local walk-in clinic if necessary.
Appointments are smoother and happier events when your child knows what to expect. Here are some tips to get ready:
• Talk about the appointment -- explain why you're going and what to expect;
• Don't “overhype” the visit; avoid making your child nervous or overexcited;
• If possible, let your child observe an older sibling or parent having their eyes checked or teeth cleaned;
• Read stories or watch videos about visiting the doctor or dentist -- ask a librarian to help you find some.
• Try to schedule your appointment at a time when your child will be alert and relaxed.
In addition to the above “must-see” check-ups recommended for all children, there may be additional screening or assessments in place where you live. For example, Ontario's Infant Hearing Program screens all newborns for hearing problems.
And, of course, those regularly scheduled doctor's visits will help determine if your child is meeting milestones and whether there are other specialists they should see.
Page 2 of 2
It's easy to subscribe to Canadian Living Magazine. Just click here to find out how much it costs and what you'll get.