Going to the Doctor Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

Many children feel apprehension about visits to the doctor. Knowing exactly what will happen at the doctor’s office will help to lessen their anxiety. It is important for your children to understand that regular checkups help keep them healthy and safe. Going to the doctor for checkups now could save them many trips to the doctor later. Furthermore, establishing a health plan with a doctor may help them prevent getting sick in the future.

Help your children understand that they might go to the doctor when they are sick or get hurt, but they should also go when they are feeling well. This is the best time for a doctor to make sure they are growing strong and healthy. Children should visit their doctor for yearly checkups to monitor growth and changes and receive the proper immunizations, or vaccinations.

During a check-up, a nurse and a doctor will administer a routine physical examination and various tests, depending on the age and sex of the patient. Health care professionals will record the results of these tests in a health record, which will allow them to monitor the child’s growth and progress over time.

Usually a nurse or health care professional will measure the patient’s height and weight, record body temperature using a thermometer, and determine the patient’s blood pressure. Explain to your children that blood pressure reflects the health of the circulatory system, which consists of the heart and all of the body’s blood vessels. Assure your children that measuring blood pressure does not hurt. First, a special cuff is wrapped around the arm. Then the cuff is pumped with air to make it tighten around the arm. The air is released and the nurse or health care professional reads the measurement on the dial. It takes only a few minutes to complete. The nurse or health care professional will also listen to the patient’s heart and listen to the lungs using a stethoscope. The patient will most likely take a vision and a hearing test too.

Before the doctor does a closer examination, he or she will ask lots of questions about how school is going, and about things like diet, exercise and sleep, and friends and hobbies. He or she will listen to the heart and lungs and inspect the ears, eyes, nose, and throat closely with special lights. The doctor might tap different parts of the body lightly with a rubber hammer to check reflexes and test to see how the body communicates with the brain. The doctor will also check the spine, or backbone, to make sure it is growing straight. Doctors may also ask for a urine sample, which they will analyze to check for proper functioning of kidneys and other organs. A urine sample can also indicate possible infections that may not be known to the patient.

The doctor or nurse may also give an immunization, which will protect the patient from getting very sick in the future. Many children are fearful of shots, but you can reassure them that the vaccinations ensure health. It may pinch a little, but imagine how sick they might feel if they did not receive proper immunizations. Plus, it’s over very quickly! Some vaccinations require several doses and therefore several visits to the doctor. Other vaccinations only require one dose for the child to be immune to the disease. Immunizations for children might include measles, mumps, rubella; polio, and tetanus.

The doctor may also prescribe medication to the child. She or he should understand that medicine is only for the person to whom it’s prescribed and should only be taken under the supervision of an adult. Doctors prescribe medicine to help health problems, but medication can be dangerous if it’s not used correctly. We recommend watching the Medicine movie for review.

It is important to foster good communication between children and doctors. Doctors need to know about any changes to a child’s health, including sleeping and eating habits. The doctor also needs to know if there have been any stressful incidents in their lives. Encourage your children to ask questions when he or she is getting a checkup. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed or scared. Asking questions means learning about and understanding their own bodies. The doctor can work with guardians and children to come up with a health plan to help young patients continue to grow up strong and healthy.