BATON ROUGE, La. – Schools statewide will start the 2021-2022 academic year soon. Along with paper and pencils, add a checkup to your child’s back-to-school planning list.
Dr. Tracy Lemelle, a pediatrician who is one of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana’s medical directors, said a new school year starting is a good time to take your children to the doctor, especially if it’s been more than a year since their last visit.
“Your family’s doctor can make sure your child is hitting all the age-appropriate milestones,” Dr. Lemelle said. “That is also the perfect time for parents to ask the doctor about any concerns they have related to their child’s learning abilities or participation in activities.”
“Children need routine vaccines at different ages from infancy through their adolescent and teenage years, even up until starting college. Having regular visits is a great way to help parents stay on top of that,” she added.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies have regular checkups between birth and age two and a half. After that, children need at least one doctor’s visit a year. Regular checkups help parents and their children’s doctors stay on top of the child’s growth and development. Checkups also help catch any issues earlier, when they are easier to treat.
If your child plans to play sports or do other activities that require a medical form to be filled out, Dr. Lemelle suggests parents bring this up at the visit.
“Don’t wait until the first week of school, when everyone will be rushing to get that done,” Dr. Lemelle said. “If you have a checkup over the summer, then the doctor’s office will have your child’s recent information on file. They’ll be able to get that form back to you quickly to turn in.”
Dr. Lemelle shares why annual checkups are so important for children’s health in this video (1:38).
COVID-19 Vaccines for Children 12 and Older
Children ages 12-17 can get the COVID-19 vaccine. In June, a group of leading doctors, nurses and U.S. public health officials issued a statement encouraging everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated if they have not already because any potential risks from vaccination are low while the risks from getting COVID-19 are high, and vaccines are effective protection against the virus.
“Especially with the troubling Delta variant increasingly circulating, and more readily impacting younger people, the risks of being unvaccinated are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. If you get COVID-19, you could get severely ill and be hospitalized or even die. Even if your infection is mild, you or your child could face long-term symptoms following COVID-19 infection such as neurological problems or diminished lung function,” the statement said.
Dr. Lemelle said if parents are concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine and any potential side effects for their child, they should plan to ask the doctor about this at the annual wellness visit.
“I’m a pediatrician and a parent, and I completely understand why you would hesitate to give your children a vaccine – or any medical treatment – they have never had before,” Dr. Lemelle said. “The annual wellness visit is a great time to tell your child’s doctor about your concerns, share what you’re hearing and ask any questions you have. The doctor can advise you what is best for your child’s situation. It’s better to have a conversation with your child’s doctor than to just avoid the vaccine out of fear or because of things you’re seeing posted online that may not even be true.”
If your children are younger than 12, ask their doctor how you can keep them healthy and avoid getting or spreading COVID-19, particularly as they get ready to head back to the classroom or resume group activities.
“Your child’s doctor is there to help you decide what is best to keep your family healthy,” Dr. Lemelle said. “The annual visit is not just for the child, it is for the parents to ask questions and get the information they need, too. Health is a family activity, and your pediatrician is a resource for you.”
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short videos on annual wellness visits, the COVID-19 vaccines and other health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and now, TikTok.
For information on what Blue Cross is doing in response to COVID-19, visit www.bcbsla.com/covid19.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.