5 Reasons Why Children Need Annual Exams

Parents start out with multiple newborn visits and vaccinations, but as kids grow it can be easy to forget to schedule an annual exam following the  American Academy of Pediatrics recommended calendar for preventive healthcare. Life gets hectic and it’s hard not to wonder if parents really need to miss that important meeting and pull their child out of school when they seem generally healthy.

Annual checkups with your child’s doctor are an important part of their wellness and keeps them up to date with immunizations, development and parents informed. The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners want parents to remember these five reasons to schedule their child’s annual exam today.

1. Help Prevent Health Issues

Benjamin Franklin famously stated in 1736 that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He may have been referring to fighting and preventing fires, but this phrase can certainly be extended to one’s health. There are several illnesses that present without symptoms. If a child has an annual check-up, it can be easier to identify potential problems and allow their doctor an opportunity to treat them.

Another important factor in prevention is regular immunizations and ensuring children are up to date on all vaccinations. This annual check-up also provides an opportunity to review proper nutrition, safety in the home and at school. Doctors want to help prevent injuries and promote healthy habits.

2. Track Growth Patterns

From the nick marks on the door frame to the height chart at amusement parks, children and parents alike enjoy seeing how much growth happens in a year’s time. Growth is an excellent indicator of health, including if a child is underweight or overweight. As they grow, their bodies are going through a lot and it’s important for their doctor to monitor these changes closely to see if the development is happening at a normal rate.

For parents or children with concerns about class grades or schoolwork, these exams also provide an opportunity to intervene early on from an intellectual and educational standpoint and further address any potential behavioral or academic issues.

Doctors typically discuss hearing or vision concerns, healthy sleep patterns, eating habits and promote nutritious food choices.  In addition, they may screen older children or teenagers for cholesterol and high blood pressure to test for high risks of cardiovascular disease.

3. Monitor Developmental Milestones

Annual exams allow for assessment of proper development and milestone achievement. When a doctor sees a child annually, they can track physical, emotional and educational milestones and indicate if intervention is needed. This can help prepare children and parents for school recommendations and set them up for better success later in life.

4. Monitor Behavioral Milestones

Typically, after the age of two, doctors start to screen for behavioral concerns. Parents share information that can help doctors pinpoint milestones that aren’t being met, like speech, walking and behavioral issues that parents and caregivers might not think to ask about.

If a parent has behavioral concerns, they could be the result of anxiety, hearing difficulties and vision challenges, which are medical issues a doctor can treat.

 5. Ask Questions

Having a check-up on an annual basis provides an opportunity to review a child’s development, compare growth to previous years and discuss school readiness. Are they on par, lagging or ahead of their peers? Most parents prefer to time their annual appointment before the school year starts to discuss their child’s emotional development or readiness for what’s ahead.

Check-ups also allow young ones a chance to get comfortable seeing their doctor regularly. This assures that when children get older, they feel comfortable talking with their doctor about different things as they age including sexual and mental health concerns, they may not want to share in front of their parents.

Having an opportunity to talk with your child’s doctor can be helpful and put the parent’s minds at ease. Whatever time you choose to book an annual exam, make it one that is easy to remember, whether that means lining it up with the child’s birthday or an annual flu vaccine.

Doctors want and should be part of this village that we need to help raise healthy, happy children, and they can’t do that if they don’t see them often enough. Go ahead and schedule that annual visit today.

Socializing Safely After COVID-19 Vaccine: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

You’ve been cooped up for over a year and ready to explore. Armed with your newly laminated COVID-19 vaccine card, you want to celebrate. But before you start hugging strangers, tossing face masks and throwing caution to the wind, we’re here to remind you of a few safety precautions.

The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners know that everyone wants some normalcy after a challenging 2020. But we have to remember to protect ourselves and those around us who have yet to receive the vaccine. So here are 10 do’s and don’ts to help fully vaccinated people navigate through life during this pandemic.

1. DO Take a Picture of Your Vaccine Card

Once you have received your vaccine card, make sure to store a picture of it on your phone for your records. This document will come in handy in the future for any COVID vaccine-related questions or needs. If you lose your card, contact the place where you originally received the vaccine and inquire about getting a copy.

2.   DO Wait Until You are Fully Vaccinated

The CDC considers a person fully vaccinated when they are two weeks past their final vaccination, whether it’s the Johnson & Johnson single dose or the second dose in a two-dose series like the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines.

3.   DON’T Throw Out Those Face Masks

The COVID-19 vaccine does a phenomenal job keeping us from getting the coronavirus, and if we were to contract it, lowers our risk of getting severely sick and dying. What isn’t currently quite as clear is how well the vaccines reduce the spread of COVID-19. That means it’s possible that even those who are vaccinated can be contagious. By continuing to wear your mask and stay physically distant from others, you’ll reduce the chance of potentially spreading infection.

4. DO Take Precautions

The CDC recommends taking precautions while researchers work to understand the true efficacy of these vaccines. Remember to wear a face mask, wait six feet apart and wash hands thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to avoid gathering in large crowds, delay travel if possible and skip places that have poor ventilation.

5. DON’T Worry About Quarantine

Fully vaccinated people don’t have to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 unless they start experiencing symptoms. If symptoms appear, they should get tested and stay home and away from others for 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

6. DO Visit with Friends and Family

If people have been fully vaccinated, the CDC says they can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. If your circle of friends is sporting their vaccination cards, go ahead and schedule that wine night, but keep your group small.

The CDC also states that you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with family who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

This means it is safe to visit grandma and grandpa. Grandparents that are fully vaccinated can safely see their unvaccinated grandchildren without having to wear a mask as long as they keep the interactions to a small group.

7. DO Continue Opting for Outside

Whether you’re grabbing a drink, dining out or attending a live music event, continue to choose outdoor options to keep your activities as safe as possible for everyone involved. Indoor activities still pose inherent risks. Being outdoors, in the open air and socially distanced, is your best chance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If everyone in your party is vaccinated, the risk of catching COVID-19 is reduced. But it is important to avoid activities that could make you susceptible to getting the virus and spreading it to others, especially those at higher risk due to health issues or the fact they have not yet been vaccinated themselves. 

8. DON’T Ignore New Research About Variants and Boosters

It is expected that any virus will mutate. This is typical virus behavior, so seeing variants of COVID-19 already present isn’t a surprise, and new ones will continue to make themselves known. There is not yet enough information to know how long immunity offered by the current vaccines will protect us. It will take more research to know if we may eventually need boosters. 

9. DO Follow Travel Guidance

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are permitted to travel,

but they are suggesting that everyone avoid non-essential travel. If people must travel, they should follow local guidance and the CDC’s requirements and recommendations. While traveling, people should avoid crowded places, wear a face mask, wait at least six feet apart and routinely wash their hands or use hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol.

10. DO Make Appointments for Ongoing Health Needs

During the pandemic, patients have avoided making appointments for fear of COVID-19. GMP’s offices have been optimized for patient safety, including health screenings, mask policies and keeping COVID-19 testing outside the clinic. Additionally, seeing your primary care provider for your annual wellness exams and continuing with your ongoing medical care are the things that keep you healthy. If you’ve been putting off your next appointment, don’t hesitate to make it today

Maintaining a relationship with your doctor means you have a trusted resource to turn to when questions arise. Beyond the vaccine in your arm, you can also rely on your trusted physician to arm you with everything you need to stay well in changing times. 


Gaston Medical Previews COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution With Gov. Cooper

In this photo, taken by Khadejeh Nikouyeh of The Charlotte Observer, Gov. Roy Cooper greets our own Dr. David Locklear with an elbow bump.

Gaston Medical Partners was honored to welcome North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Wednesday, March 31, 2021, for a  tour of the practice and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Gov. Cooper greeted patients and encouraged those getting their vaccines to “go tell all your friends.”

Gov. Cooper shared with Drs. David Locklear and Michael McCartney how important it is to include family and primary care physicians in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan.

“Who knows how much vaccine hesitancy you are able to overcome because you are getting them the shot and they trust you,” Cooper told Gaston Medical Partners. He added that COVID-19 vaccination is the road to recovery, and is critically important to returning to normalcy.

As of March 31, Gaston Medical has received 200 doses of the vaccine and expects more to be delivered on a weekly basis. Currently these doses are reserved for patients who will be notified by email if they are eligible.

Coverage of Gov. Cooper’s visit can be seen in the The Charlotte Observer, and on WBTV and WSOC.