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Regular health checks for children

5-minute read

It is recommended that children attend scheduled health checks until they turn 5. Regularly taking your child to health checks can help you better understand your child’s growth and development and can detect possible problems early.

What are the benefits of health checks for my child?

Regular health checks can reassure you or address concerns about your child’s development. A healthcare professional will let you know if your child is following a typical pattern. They will also let you know how you can support your child at each age and stage.

Health checks give you information on feeding, nutrition, safe sleeping and general care giving. Checks are useful to learn how you can develop a close and secure attachment to your child.

Healthcare professionals give evidence-based recommendations that are consistent with current medical guidelines. If necessary, they will direct you to more resources for your child’s age and individual needs.

Health checks assist you to predict and plan for your child’s next stage of development. This can be useful to ensure your child’s safety and to support their growth. For example, when they begin to roll and walk, and feed on solids.

How often should my child have a health check?

As a general guide, your child should have a health check at age one, 18 months, 2, 3, and at 4 or before they start school. A health professional will record your child’s height and weight measurements at each age. Then using these measurements, compare them against children of the same age and gender.

Although every child grows at a different rate, there are consistent growth and developmental milestones with most children.

Health checks may pick up medical conditions and treat them in the early stages. Early intervention and treatment helps to support recovery. This helps to avoid complications for treatable conditions.

What will a healthcare professional check?

A healthcare professional will check your child’s hearing, vision, growth and development. Health professionals have access to accurate scales and measuring devices designed for young children. They will use them to weigh your child and measure their height and head circumference.

The health professional may ask your child to do some activities or observe them while they are interacting with you or toys. They will plot their measurements on percentile (growth) charts and compare them against other children of the same age and gender.

The healthcare professional will ask you questions about your child’s eating, sleeping habits and general behaviour. They may ask you other questions to help pick up developmental delays or to identify developmental concerns.

You can also offer the health professional information about your child’s health and how they are growing. You will get a infant health record book when you have your baby. The book contains an ‘ages and stages’ questionnaire you can fill out before your child’s health checks. In the book, you can also keep a note of concerns you have about your child and discuss them at the appointment.

Who should I see for my child’s regular health checks?

You can choose which healthcare professional you take your child to see. But it is common for parents to take their child to a registered child health nurse at a child health centre. The government provides these checks for free.

Many child health centres run parenting groups, and provide information on local activities for families. A child health nurse will give you support, guidance and information on parenting. They will ask you about your parenting experience. This is a good opportunity to talk about concerns you may have.

It is important that you take your child to the doctor if they are sick, have a rash or temperature, or if you have other concerns about their health. Many community-based child-health centres offer childhood vaccination — doctors vaccinate too.

If the nurse has concerns about your child’s health or development, they may recommend frequent health checks, including visits to a paediatrician or other specialist services. The child health nurse and doctor should work together with you to provide the support your child needs.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2022

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Health Checks in Childhood | myVMC

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