Clinical Contributors to this Story
Phylicia Baird, M.D. contributes to topics such as Internal Medicine.
Throughout the past year, many have be diligent about hand-washing, mask-wearing and staying at least six feet away from people to stay as healthy as possible. But there’s one additional step that you should not skip: Seeing your doctor for your annual checkup.
Why get an annual checkup?
Your annual well visit helps you and your doctor keep tabs on your health. It gives you an opportunity to uncover any health changes before they snowball into bigger problems.
“A pandemic does not put on pause any developing or advancing any health problems you may have,” says Phylicia Baird, M.D., an internal medical specialist with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group. “Too often we are seeing people skip important health visits because they are afraid of getting COVID. But the reality is, doctor’s offices have implemented advanced safety protocols to keep you safe. The greater danger is cancelling your appointment.”
Health screenings to expect at your annual exam
You’ll need to step on the scale when you visit the doctor for your annual visit. Your doctor records your weight from year to year, as well as other details about your health, such as:
- your body mass index (BMI), a ratio that checks to see if you’re a healthy weight for your height
- your temperature
- your blood-pressure levels
- your lung sounds, during an exam with a stethoscope
- your skin (checking for signs of cancer)
Your doctor should also offer you a flu shot, if you haven’t had one yet this year, and send you for blood work to check your cholesterol levels and more.
Depending on your personal health history, your doctor may also offer (or send you for) any number of health screenings, such as:
- diabetes screening
- vision and/or hearing screenings
- a Pap test
- a mammogram
- a colonoscopy
Why you should get an annual checkup if you’ve had COVID-19
Some people who have had COVID-19 experience lingering effects or complications, so it’s important to keep tabs on your health to ensure that you’ve fully recovered from the virus. Your doctor can compare your current health to your medical records to see if anything seems concerning.
Because COVID-19 is so new, doctors are still learning what long-term effects the virus may be, especially among those who experienced lingering symptoms. Your doctor can refer you to Hackensack Meridian Health’s COVID Recovery Center for follow-up if you need additional care, due to complications.
How to prepare for your annual visit
Before you go to the doctor for your annual checkup, find out how the office is handling patient visits during the pandemic.
Some offices ask patients to call from the parking lot upon arrival, then wait in their cars until an exam room opens up. Others may meet you at the front door with a thermometer for a temperature check before admitting you. Whatever procedures your doctor’s office are following, expect to follow these rules, as well:
- wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to the appointment
- arrive at the appointment by yourself; don’t bring along your children or anyone else
- stay 6 feet away from other patients in the waiting room
- use hand sanitizer, if requested by staff members
- stay home if you have flu-like symptoms or symptoms of COVID-19
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.