smiling young girl with doctor listening to heartbeat

Practice Prevention with Wellness Checks and Vaccinations

Child wellness checks and immunizations are an important part of ensuring infants and toddlers have a great start to life, but as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, immunization rates for children dropped significantly throughout the United States during the ongoing response to COVID-19. As ThedaCare Pediatrics resumes wellness appointments, families should feel confident that their children can safely stay up to date with routine health checkups and protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Making Wellness Visits a Priority

“Wellness checks help care teams monitor the health and development of infants and toddlers,” said Abby Smolcich, MD, of ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Darboy. “These visits are a great opportunity to discuss any concerns parents might have about their child, such as eating/feeding issues, sleep schedules, growth and overall development.”

Seeing young patients regularly allows caregivers to make sure they are on track with milestones, work closely with families to find the cause of any problems, and implement interventions to prevent any effect on the child’s long-term health and development.

The other big component of wellness checks is keeping infants and children up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations.

“In the first two years of a child’s life, they get several vaccinations,” Dr. Smolcich said. “The schedule ThedaCare follows has been studied and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other professional health organizations. This schedule is the most effective in terms of immune response and protection against the common viruses and bacteria that can be fatal to infants and young children, and/or affect their growth and development in the long term.”

Dr. Smolcich cited diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and other diseases that can cause serious long-term health issues and also death.

“It’s especially important now, during the pandemic, to make sure we are protecting our children from diseases, such as measles, which became active again with an outbreak in Washington State in 2019,” she said. “We want to prevent those diseases from reemerging and causing health problems.”

Victoria Neuman, Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton reassures parents that vaccines are safe.

“Vaccines are a highly effective, safe and easy way to keep your family healthy,” she said. “All vaccines are tested by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and approved for the recommended ages.”

Providers are required to maintain and report records of all childhood, teen and adult immunizations to state medical agencies. Wisconsin residents may access their child’s immunization record online by logging onto the Wisconsin Immunization Registry through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) webpage,

Parents may access complete information about recommended immunizations for infants, children, teens and adults by searching “Immunization Schedule” on the CDC’s website,

Precautions Taken at ThedaCare Facilities

Families will notice some changes for wellness visits and other medical exams at ThedaCare locations. Our team members have gone to great lengths to make sure we can provide safe care for patients and families.

  1. Anyone who enters a ThedaCare facility will be required to wear a mask, including all team members.
  2. Patients will be asked to maintain six feet social distancing from all other patients.
  3. For well-child visits, ThedaCare asks that only one parent/caregiver accompany the child and not bring other siblings. Exceptions will be allowed, but parents should discuss their concerns when scheduling the appointment.
  4. Everyone will be asked a series of screening questions about any possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and if they have any symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or problems with vomiting or diarrhea. If those symptoms are present, the appointment should be rescheduled.
  5. Everyone will have their temperature checked; either via an ear probe or forehead scan, or in some cases, via an oral check. As long as their temperature is below 99.7 degrees F., they will be allowed to enter.

In addition to following or exceeding the CDC’s protocols and guidelines for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), all ThedaCare caregivers, support staff and infectious disease experts continue to stay informed with the latest information and treatment protocols to make sure we are ready, prepared and accessible at anytime, anywhere our community needs us.

Teaching Children the Importance of Masks

Both Dr. Smolcich and Neuman acknowledge some children may have fears related to wearing a mask or interacting with staff who are wearing masks. They offered some suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help children deal with that concern:

  1. Explain to your child why it’s important to wear a mask – to avoid spreading germs – and why other people are wearing masks. Make sure the mask covers the child’s nose and mouth.
  2. Wear your mask around your home and have children wear masks to practice and to become accustomed to wearing one.
  3. Reward the child for wearing the mask and for not touching it.
  4. Decorate the mask with the child’s favorite character or make a mask from material the child chooses.
  5. Explain that doctors and nurses will be wearing a mask just as mom or dad are, and that’s okay.
  6. Be prepared to offer extra comfort to the child during their medical appointment.

The AAP says the most important things parents can teach their children are to keep their hands away from their face and wash their hands often.

Increasing Telehealth Opportunities

In addition to taking critical safety measures at all of our facilities, ThedaCare has also increased development of telehealth opportunities for patient care, such as telephone and video visits.

“We have increased the capacity of our video and virtual visits to complement our face-to-face care,” she said. “While virtual visits continue to be a convenient and comfortable option for many patients, we realize that not everything can be treated remotely, and we want our patients to know we’re here for them if they need to be seen in person.”

A telephone visit consists of the patient scheduling a normal appointment time with ThedaCare staff. At the appointed time, the provider calls the patient, confirms all identities and proceeds to discuss the patient’s concerns just as they would in an exam room. Medication consultations, for example, might be an option for a telephone visit.

Video visits will follow a similar process. The patient will make a specific appointment time with a ThedaCare staff member. At the appointed time, a ThedaCare medical assistant will connect with the patient via the patient’s computer, iPad or other technology device. Using an iPad in the exam room, the medical assistant will gather preliminary information from the patient. Then the provider will enter the room, review the preliminary info and conduct the visit with a video connection just as they would in an exam room, minus the physical interaction.

Video visits are appropriate for a number of non-emergency concerns, such as:

  • Medication consultations
  • Contraceptive counseling
  • Allergy concerns
  • Pink eye diagnosis
  • Stomach flu issues
  • Fevers of less than 24 hours
  • Various follow-up consultations such as for allergy or asthma issues, acne concerns and feeding concerns for babies

“This list will change as we get into the process further and figure out what works best as a video or telephone visit,” said Dr. Smolcich. “The response to COVID-19 has been a challenging time for all of us. We’re all learning and adjusting. Telehealth is a nice option for families to the care they need, in a different way. Our goal is to make the best health care easily accessible for our community.”