Well-Child Visits

Regular well-child exams are an important part of keeping kids healthy and up to date on immunizations against many serious childhood diseases.

Checkups also are a chance for you and the doctor to talk about developmental and safety issues, and for you to get answers to any questions about your child's overall health.

What to Expect at the Doctor's Office

At a typical well-child visit, your child will be weighed and measured and these results will be plotted on growth charts for weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). Using these charts, doctors can see how kids are growing compared with other kids the same age and gender. The doctor will take a family and medical history and do a physical exam.

Your child may be screened for anemia, lead poisoning, tuberculosis, high cholesterol, or other conditions. The doctor also will ask about your child's eating habits.

The doctor will make sure all immunizations are up to date. At this age, most kids should have had these recommended vaccines:

Your child should also get the flu vaccine every year, ideally before flu season begins. Other vaccines might be needed if the doctor determines that your child is at risk for conditions like meningococcal or pneumococcal disease.

Developmental Progress

The doctor will check your child's developmental progress, asking about behavior and specific developmental milestones. Doctors also give a screening test to help identify developmental delays and autism at the 24- or 30-month visit.

Developmental milestones for 3-year-olds include being able to:

  • dress and undress with a little help
  • knows first and last name and age
  • can count three objects
  • can copy a circle

Child safety is another topic discussed at well-child visits. The doctor will talk about the importance of using car seats, closely watching kids around swimming pools, preventing poisoning, not smoking around kids, and using sunscreen. In homes with guns, weapons and ammunition should be stored separately and kept locked at all times.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Some symptoms can be signs of an infection, chronic medical condition, or other medical problem. Call your doctor if your child has any of these:

  • changes in weight or eating habits
  • changes in behavior or sleep patterns
  • a failure to grow in height as expected
  • a fever and also looks sick
  • long-lasting or frequent vomiting or diarrhea
  • severe or long-lasting irritability or tiredness
  • signs of a skin infection or a long-lasting rash
  • long-lasting cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, or other breathing problems
  • localized pain, such as pain caused by an ear infection

Common Medical Problems

Young children have an average of 6 to 8 colds a year, and also may have several bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, as well as ear infections.

Sleep problems and behavior or discipline concerns are very common at this age and can be frustrating for parents. Your doctor can offer guidance to help you manage these issues too.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.