When your infant has a rash, you take him to the doctor. When your toddler has an ear infection, you take her to the doctor. But you’re still going to the pediatrician even when they are not sick, right?
The well-child checkup is just as important as the acute care appointment to get your son or daughter feeling better. Establishing a relationship with your pediatrician is vitally important for preventative care, which does include important vaccinations, but also to check development, provide guidance and allow for early detection of any chronic diseases.
They can seem overwhelming, those recommended visits. We want to see your child soon after birth (newborn visit) and at months one, two, four, six, nine, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30 and 36, with yearly appointments after that. Understandably, many of those first visits result in tears for your little one as they are poked in the legs with vaccinations to keep them and others protected from highly contagious diseases.
We have been lulled into a false sense of security against many preventable diseases because of the effectiveness of vaccines. And while some parents do continue to opt against the vaccines for personal reasons, the scientific community has disproved any concerns about a link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders.
The recent outbreaks of measles, which largely impact the unvaccinated, are a concern. So far this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a record 477 cases reported in 20 states, including Ohio. That is by far the highest number of cases since measles was considered eliminated here in the United States in 2000.
And this disease, which can result in death for one or two out of every 1,000 children, is preventable. The MMRV vaccine that prevents against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox) is among the recommended vaccinations for young children.
The list of vaccines is long, but there are a number of them that target multiple diseases and its several doses of those, rather than new shots, that are part of the overall vaccination schedule. Starting in the baby’s first two months they also are vaccinated against hepatitis B, rotavirus, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B and pneumococcal (pneumonia) bacteria. In subsequent appointments in months four, six, 12, 15, and 18 there are important follow up doses and boosters — note the ninth-month checkup is a nice break with no shots needed. Other important early childhood vaccines include influenza virus and hepatitis A vaccines.
Concerned parents with questions about vaccines should have a conversation with their pediatrician. That is why we are here. While only a few parents raise those concerns with me, I am happy to sit down with them and discuss what diseases the vaccines prevent, and why it is so important to do them as early as possible because infants are the most vulnerable.
I cannot stress enough open communication between parents and pediatricians. We are here to help address questions about language acquisition, behavioral health concerns and any other "is this normal?" thought you have. Vision and hearing screenings are important services offered by pediatricians, as are state certified sports physicals to get ready for athletics.
Unfortunately too many children go too long without seeing a pediatrician or whose only doctor visits are to urgent care or an emergency room when those rashes or ear infections happen. The University of Toledo is working to change that.
Rocket Pediatrics, located in the Ruppert Center at the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, is expanding with a new clinic opening in Waterville this fall, down the road from the Shops at Fallen Timbers.
A temporary location is now in operation in Perrysburg near the Town Center at Levis Commons. The new pediatrics clinic is part of UTMC's efforts to reach people where they are, which includes the family medicine clinics near the Franklin Park Mall and at Fallen Timbers.
UT also is starting a program with Toledo Public Schools where a pediatrician will be in an elementary school one day a week to serve school children and their siblings right in their neighborhood. The program is beginning this summer at Reynolds Elementary and will continue through the year.
School clinics are an important need for families because they eliminate barriers such as transportation to get to a doctor's office for regular checkups. We plan to expand the program to other elementary schools in the near future.
To meet the busy schedules of parents, Rocket Pediatrics also offers same day appointments, evening hours and Saturday clinics. Additional services such as a travel clinic to get appropriate vaccinations and other care prior to an international trip, child psychology to address behavior and pediatric endocrinology for youth with diabetes and other metabolic illnesses, are also offered through Rocket Pediatrics.
Every child is different and a pediatrician working regularly with you can help identify what is normal for your son or daughter and respond when something isn't right. Plus, we enjoy watching your child grow up healthy just as much as you do.
Joyce M. Bevington, M.D., PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toledo and a pediatrician at the UT Medical Center. For more information, go to utmc.utoledo.edu/clinics/ped_general.