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September 02, 2020

Why development screenings and lead testing are so important for kids

Children's Health Screenings

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Dad and child at doctor fizkes/

As parents, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe and happy. We childproof our homes when they’re infants, we prepare nutritious meals to keep them healthy, and we spend as much quality time with them as we can. Another important thing you can do to protect them? Schedule regular well-child visits with their doctor.

Even if your child is not sick, you should make it a priority to keep these appointments. Preventive care for kids can help ensure they stay healthy. Best of all, if you have health insurance coverage through Independence, including through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), well-child visits are covered at no cost!

Here are three benefits of well-child visits:

  1. Discuss concerns. These visits are an ideal time to talk to your child’s doctor about any questions or concerns you may have about their physical health, development, or behavior.
  2. Get immunizations. Vaccines give children the protection they need to be healthy and help prevent illness. Be sure to follow the recommended immunization schedule for children.
  3. Track growth and development. At these visits, you will learn how much your child has grown in the time since your last visit and have the opportunity to discuss your child’s milestones.

What to expect at a well-child visit

At well-child visits, you can expect your child to be weighed, measured for height, and physically examined. Your doctor should also ask you about any concerns you may have, and will observe your child to determine if they meet typical developmental milestones for their age.

Developmental screenings

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends developmental screenings for little ones during their well-visits at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months (or whenever there is a concern).

Developmental screenings typically involve completing a questionnaire about your child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions.

While all children develop at their own pace, these screenings look for milestones and can help identify developmental delays or issues. Sometimes, the only sign of a disease starting is poor growth in height and weight, frequently not noticed by those who live with the child.

Here are some questions that your child’s doctor may ask you as part of their development screenings:

9-month well-child visit

• Does your baby make two similar sounds like ba-ba, da-da, or ga-ga?
• Does your baby pass a toy back and forth from one hand to the other?
• Does your baby drink water, juice, or formula from a cup while you hold it?

18-months well-child visit

• Does your child say eight or more words in addition to Mama and Dada?
• Does your child stack a small block or toy on top of another one?
• Does your child play with a doll or stuffed animal by hugging it?

24-months well-child visit

• If you point to a picture of a ball (kitty, cup, hat, etc.) and ask your child, What is this?, does your child correctly name at least one picture?
• Does your child jump with both feet leaving the floor at the same time?
• Does your child copy the activities you do, such as wipe up a spill, sweep, shave, or comb hair?

Early intervention works

Developmental delays or behavioral problems that can be identified by screening include learning disabilities, speech or language problems, autism, intellectual disability, emotional/behavioral conditions, hearing or vision impairment, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

With as many as one in four children at risk for developmental delays, these screenings are an important tool to help identify delays early, allowing time for appropriate intervention and treatment (preferably before a child enters pre-school).

While developmental screenings usually occur at well-child visits, you should bring up any issues or concerns as soon as you think there’s a problem. If you think your child is falling behind in emotional, mental, or physical growth, talk to your child’s doctor right away.

Lead exposure

There are many reasons a child may have growth problems and developmental delays. Did you know lead poisoning could be one of them? If you child isn’t growing normally or is acting out, it could be a sign that your child is being exposed to toxic lead dust.

If you are concerned about possible lead exposure, talk to your doctor about a blood test to check your child’s lead levels. Even if you don’t think that your child is at risk for lead poisoning, a lead screening should still be performed between 9 and 12 months and at 24 months as part of your well-child visits.

Lead is a dangerous toxin, especially for young children, because of their small size and rapid growth and development. One common way children can be exposed to lead is from swallowing house dust or soil contaminated by lead paint (most common in homes built before 1978). Young children may also put their hands and other objects with lead dust into their mouths. Lead can also enter drinking water in older homes that have plumbing materials containing lead. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.

Effects of lead

Most children with lead in their blood have no symptoms. If your child has high levels of lead, they may experience symptoms such as anemia, fatigue, irritability, poor sleep habits, stomach pain, vomiting, and weight loss. Lead exposure may also lead to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and attention deficit disorder (ADD).

If the blood test is positive for lead, your child’s doctor can provide information on how to lower the level, get your child treated if the level is high, and provide information on protecting your child from lead exposure.

If your child is covered by CHIP through Independence Blue Cross (Independence), look for important information in the mail and by phone about getting your child tested for lead.

Independence has your child covered

To help ensure your child stays safe and healthy, be sure to follow the AAP’s schedule for routine well-child visits.

Independence health plans provide coverage for well-child visits, developmental screenings, immunizations, and more! If you’re an Independence member and would like to learn more about benefits for enrolled dependents, call the number on the back of your member ID card.

Members who have a concern or complaint about accessing timely care from their child’s provider may call the Member Services number listed on the back of their ID card and ask to file a quality of care complaint.

This article was originally published on IBX Insights.

About Lynn Collins

Lynn Collins is a Pediatric Medical Director at Independence Blue Cross. In her current role, she is responsible for utilization review, policy review, and addressing any concerns regarding pediatrics. Collins received her medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and is board-certified in pediatrics.

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