Your Child’s Well Visit: What Parents Need to Know

In the world of pediatric care, a well visit is the equivalent of what used to be called a check-up or a physical. Once a year, parents typically make an appointment for a well visit with their family physician or pediatrician to make sure all’s well with their child and to voice any concerns. For children 3 and under, though, visits are as frequent as every few weeks in the newborn period to every 2 to 6 months. Well visits are a must for infants, toddlers, school-age children and teens alike. 

Understandably, parents tend to have plenty of questions about what’s involved in a well visit: how to prepare for it, what to bring and what to expect once you get called into the doctor’s office. Let’s review all your FAQs in detail with Weill Cornell Medicine pediatrician Dr. Corey Wasserman as your guide. 

What is generally included in a well visit? 

Depending on your child’s age, a well visit may include immunizations, a complete physical examination, a review of your child’s medical history and a conversation regarding any concerns. The visit will typically take from 15 to 30 minutes. 

“We can actually accomplish a great deal during that 15 minutes, Dr. Wasserman says. “Mainly, the idea is to check on your child’s vital signs and developmental milestones, and to listen to any concerns you may have. Most of the time, your children are indeed well, not sick, so we start out with that assumption. And if there is reason for concern, you can follow up with a separate appointment to investigate what may be happening with your child’s health.” 

How should I prepare for my child’s well visit? 

First, check in via Connect up to 5 days before your child’s visit to make sure we have your most up-to-date information, including your pharmacy and insurance, along with a list of your child’s medications, if any. You can also review and update your responses to your health questionnaire. 

When it comes to blood work and other medical records, instead of uploading them to Connect, it may be preferable to email them to the Medical Records Department at 

On the day of your appointment, please arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled time, which will allow you to complete and submit any additional forms beforehand.  

As a matter of policy, we require at least one parent or guardian to be present for the duration of the well visit. That will facilitate the best possible communication between provider and parent and allow us to secure your permission for any necessary immunizations. 

If you can’t be present, you’ll need to reschedule the appointment. 

What should I bring? 

Please bring: 

  • Your insurance card and ID 
  • School or camp forms as needed 
  • Records of medical visits elsewhere (with a different provider or institution), if you weren’t able to submit these electronically 

Keep in mind that your doctor may not be able to fill out school or camp forms on the day of your appointment. If they have the time to complete the form during your visit, they will do so. But it’s just as likely that the information from your child’s well visit will be entered afterwards and sent to you at a later date,” Dr. Wasserman says.  

What, exactly, will take place during the visit? 

Your doctor will: 

  • Review your child’s height, weight, and BMI (body mass index). 
  • Check your child’s blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. 
  • Perform a head-to-toe physical exam. 
  • Administer any needed immunizations. 
  • Address your concerns and offer advice regarding your child’s growth and development. 

Additionally, your doctor will assess your child based on their age. 

At an infant well visit, your doctor will: 

  • Look for developmental milestones. 
  • Measure your baby’s weight, length and head circumference. 
  • Look at her ears, eyes, mouth and skin. 
  • Press on his belly to detect any problems. 
  • Inspect your baby’s genitals for tenderness, lumps or other signs of infection. 

 If your child is a toddler, your doctor will also: 

  • Conduct a vision and hearing check. 
  • Ask questions to get a sense of your child’s mental, emotional and social development. 

During a school-age well check, your doctor will ask questions about the following: 

  • Behavioral changes, if any 
  • Physical activity 
  • Sleeping habits 
  • Motor, language and problem-solving skills 

During a teen well visit, your doctor—optimally, someone your teenager feels comfortable with—will: 

  • Look for indications of alcohol, tobacco or drug use, as well as anxiety or depression.  
  • Discuss your teenager’s sexual health and provide guidance on birth control, the risk of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection) and other pertinent issues. 

What if I need to ask the doctor about a specific medical issue? 

Specific issues are considered part of a follow up or “sick” visit. These will be billed to your insurance, and you may be responsible for copayments, coinsurance or deductible payments, based on the terms of your policy.  

If you’d like to address non-routine concerns during your child’s annual well visit, let your doctor’s office know about these issues when you schedule your appointment. Depending on their complexity, your doctor may need to deal with them at a later time. 

What does a follow-up or “sick” visit entail? 

  • Any new problems or complaints 
  • Your child’s need for new medications or tests 
  • Referrals to a specialist 
  • Additional treatment options for an already-existing condition 

Can I combine my child’s well visit with a non-routine or sick office visit? 

Combining your child’s well visit with a non-routine office visit will save you time by eliminating an extra appointment, but doing so may affect your costs. Your doctor will bill your visit based on the reason you originally gave for scheduling the appointment, plus the specific issues you raised during the appointment. Anything more than a check-up may result in unplanned out-of-pocket costs to you. For these reasons, we recommend that you schedule your child’s annual well visit and any follow-up or sick office visits separately. 

The most important points to remember 

  • When scheduling your child’s well visit, clearly state the purpose of the visit.  
  • A parent or guardian must accompany all patients under 18 to their well visit. 
  • Arrive 10 minutes before your appointment time. 
  • Bring all relevant information and documentation, including any forms you need filled out. 
  • The well visit will take 15 minutes. 
  • Review your insurance plan’s summary of benefits to clarify what will and won’t be covered during your child’s well visit. 

To make an appointment with a pediatrician at Weill Cornell Medicine, go to 

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