6 Reasons Kids Should See a Doctor, Even If They’re Well

Children get sick a lot: stomach bugs, back-to-back colds, RSV, ear infections, the list goes on. As a parent, you may have spent enough time on treatment for your children when they’re sick that the last thing you want to do is visit the doctor when they’re well.

If you’ve let your children’s wellness visits slide, you’re not alone; a 2024 report found that in 2021, more than 1 in 8 U.S. children didn’t have a usual source of care, whether that’s a family medicine provider or a pediatrician, and the number was up 36 percent over the previous nine years.

Wellness visits greatly benefit children, so take a moment today to schedule one, no matter how long it’s been.

“It’s always a great time to get started with care from a regular doctor,” says UNC Health pediatrician Kori Flower, MD. “Doctors know that things get in the way of well visits, so don’t worry if it’s been some time. We’re here to help, not to judge.”

Dr. Flower explains why children need regular care from a doctor.

1. Your child’s doctor tracks healthy growth and development.

Your child’s doctor assesses your child’s progress toward growth and developmental milestones during a wellness visit. The visit also includes a variety of screenings to identify and treat minor concerns before they become major ones.

“The visit includes preventive steps to keep people healthy,” Dr. Flower says. “From checking blood pressure to vision, a doctor can help identify conditions and prevent health problems. We want kids to be healthy so they can stay in school and stay active doing the things they enjoy.”

A doctor also will ensure your child is up to date on necessary vaccines, which protect them from disease. As your child grows, your doctor can educate on healthy habits and safe behaviors.

2. A regular doctor can save you a trip to urgent care.

You may have gotten in the habit of visiting urgent care for your child’s illnesses and injuries, but once you establish a relationship with a doctor, you will have options for seeing them as well.

“When your child has a regular doctor, you can often get in quickly with them to avoid going to urgent care or the emergency room,” Dr. Flower says. “If the issue is ongoing, a regular doctor will know your child’s entire health history, so they can take the next best steps for treatment.”

If you’re looking for a doctor for your child, ask about after-hours access to the practice by telephone. That way, when your child comes home with an ear infection or a playground injury, you’ll be able to get advice on what to do.

“We always encourage patients to call for advice,” Dr. Flower says. “We can provide guidance on whether they can be seen in the office or a trip to the emergency room is appropriate.”

3. Your child’s doctor helps manage chronic conditions.

Seeing a doctor can help your child with management of an ongoing health condition, such as allergies, asthma or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Regular appointments with the child’s usual doctor help to make sure the child is on the best possible medication and the condition is well-controlled,” Dr. Flower says.

If you’re concerned that your child may have a chronic condition, your child’s doctor can provide guidance on additional care that may be necessary.

“Having regular appointments with a primary care doctor makes it possible to identify issues that might need a specialist,” Dr. Flower says. “Then, we can make a referral and coordinate the care and treatment with that specialist. It all starts with scheduling an appointment and coming in for a conversation.”

4. Your child’s doctor can help with mental health and behavioral concerns.

Children today face a variety of stressors and mental health challenges; a doctor can be your first point of contact when you have concerns about your child’s mental and emotional well-being or want to know whether a behavior is normal.

“Your child’s doctor cares for the whole child from birth onward, and that includes both physical and emotional development,” Dr. Flower says. “Your doctor may ask you to fill out a questionnaire or share your concerns about the child’s mental health so we can help.”

If necessary, your child’s doctor can provide referrals to behavioral experts, mental health specialists and other resources.

When your child sees the same doctor for a while, the relationship creates a comfortable space in which to discuss sensitive topics they may not want to bring up with their parents, especially during adolescence.

“We will start a conversation about it,” Dr. Flower says. “Even if there are no issues at the time, there is always an invitation to come back in the future with concerns.”

5. As a parent, you receive valuable guidance.

Your child isn’t the only one who benefits from regular wellness visits. You, as their parent, will receive information and guidance, too.

“During wellness visits, a big part of care is helping parents to be prepared for the next steps of their child’s development, so they can anticipate and feel supported for common issues,” Dr. Flower says. “We project ahead so there are fewer surprises and parents feel prepared.”

Whether you’re worried about potty training, performance in school or puberty, your child’s doctor will have information and resources to help you. The longer the doctor has seen your child, the more insights they’ll have on what is best for your child.

Also, if your preferred language isn’t English, Dr. Flower says that many practices have interpreters available, so ask about that option if necessary.

6. Regular visits build trust and set up the child for success.

Being sick or injured can be scary for children but seeing a doctor they associate with wellness can make other visits less stressful.

“Regular visits build a strong foundation of trust and communication,” Dr. Flower says. “Children and their parents will be more comfortable sharing when they see their doctor in times of wellness and sickness.”

Getting your child in the habit of seeing a doctor they trust will improve their ability to interact with future primary care providers.

“Doctors engage children in their own care,” Dr. Flower says. “As kids start talking, they’ll be asked questions directly and provide some of their own medical history. It’s a gradual process, but it prepares them to (one day) handle their healthcare as an adult.”

Looking for a doctor for your child? Find one near you.