Written by Dr. Amanda Menco, Pediatrician
When it comes to kids’ health, the sooner you can identify a problem, the less of a big deal it may become. Sticking to regular well-visits is an opportunity for your child’s doctor to look for those less obvious signs that something may be off with their physical and mental health. It may turn out to be nothing, but sometimes it allows us to catch a condition early when it is most easily treated or can be evaluated further by a specialist.
Here are four common conditions that pediatricians look for:
A large part of your child’s development happens in early childhood, even before the age of four, and their social development is extremely important during these years. During the pandemic, many children were unable to play with other kids and were not exposed to a normal amount of language outside the home. This has led to an increase in pediatric speech delays, so much so that the State’s Early Intervention program has been inundated with scheduling evaluations, leaving many private speech therapists overwhelmed with referrals. With speech development, time is truly of the essence, so the sooner your pediatrician identifies an issue and can make an appropriate referral the better.
Accelerated or Delayed Growth
Early adolescence is a critical time to check in with your pediatrician to monitor your child’s growth and development. It’s no secret that the pandemic caused many families to delay regular visits this past year. With this drop-off, we are suddenly picking up many cases of “precocious,” or early, puberty and advanced bone age. When a child’s skeletal and reproductive growth outpaces their chronological age, this can lead to various problems including inability to reach their full height potential. With proper imaging, we can confirm this condition and refer you to an endocrinologist who can provide various treatment options to slow down the process, so your child grows normally.
Chronic Digestive Problems
Tracking your child’s growth year-over-year also allows us to watch the trend on their growth chart more clearly. While a small drop in either their height or weight percentile usually isn’t cause for concern, seeing a significant drop in one percentile or the other, or even a subtle drop in both measures, can alert us to a possible chronic digestive issue like celiac disease or Crohn’s – even if the child doesn’t yet exhibit any gastrointestinal symptoms.
Kids who sleep a lot more than usual, or who are always tired and bored, especially in their teenage years could be suffering from improper thyroid function…. but these symptoms could also point to depression and anxiety. Allowing us to talk with your child and check simple bloodwork can help us discover the exact cause as quickly as possible so we can make the proper referrals. The past year has been incredibly stressful on kids who are lacking social interaction, struggling for privacy with everyone working from home, and, for high school seniors, trying to make immense decisions about college with limited access and information. The amount of referrals to therapists and psychologists has been tremendous lately, so the sooner we identify the issue, the sooner we can get your child the support he or she needs.
Now is a great time to check in with your pediatrician to make sure your child’s health is on track and to beat the summer camp and back-to-school rush. Let us know how we can help!