Age-Specific Examination

While child plays on the floor, evaluate musculoskeletal and neurologic system while developing a rapport with child.

Observe child’s spontaneous activities.

Ask child to demonstrate skills such as throwing a ball, building block towers, drawing geometric figures, coloring.

Evaluate gait, jumping, hopping, range of motion.

Muscle strength: Observe child climbing on parent’s lap, stooping, and recovering.



Perform examination on parent’s lap; the adult and the patient generally enjoy the experience more and you, sitting on a stool, preferably with your eyes at the child’s eye level, will find it easier than the examining table.

Begin with child sitting and undressed except for diaper or underpants.

Upper extremities

Inspect arms for movement, size, shape; observe use of hands; inspect hands for number and configuration of fingers, palmar creases.

Palpate radial pulses.

Elicit biceps and triceps reflexes.

Take blood pressure at this point or later.

Lower extremities

Child may stand for much or part of examination.

Inspect legs for movement, size, shape, alignment, lesions.

Inspect feet for alignment, longitudinal arch, number of toes.

Palpate femoral and dorsalis pedis pulses.

Elicit plantar, Achilles, and patellar reflexes.

Head and neck

Inspect head.

Inspect shape, alignment with neck, hairline, position of auricles.

Palpate anterior fontanel for size (age appropriate); head for sutures, depressions; hair for texture.

Measure head circumference (up to age 36 months).

Inspect neck for webbing, voluntary movement.

Palpate neck: thyroid, muscle tone, lymph nodes, position of trachea.

Chest, heart, lungs

Inspect chest for symmetry, respiratory movement, size, shape, precordial movement, deformity, nipple and breast development.

Palpate anterior chest, locate point of maximal impulse, note tactile fremitus in talking or crying child.

Auscultate anterior, lateral, and posterior chest for breath sounds; count respirations.

Auscultate all cardiac listening areas for S1 and S2, splitting, murmurs; count apical pulse.



Inspect abdomen.

Auscultate for bowel sounds.

Palpate: Identify size of liver and any other palpable organs or masses.


Palpate femoral pulses; compare with radial pulses.

Palpate for inguinal lymph nodes.

Inspect external genitalia.

Males: Palpate scrotum for descent of testes and other masses; crossing the legs in the tailor position helps bring testes down.



Inspect spinal alignment as child bends slowly forward to touch toes.

Observe posture from anterior, posterior, lateral views.

Observe gait.



The following steps, often delayed to the end of the examination by many, are more easily performed with a child of appropriate age sitting on a parent’s or surrogate’s lap:

Inspect eyes: Corneal light reflex, red reflex, extraocular movements, funduscopic examination.

Perform otoscopic examination. Note position and description of pinnae.

Inspect nasal mucosa.

Inspect mouth and pharynx. Note number of teeth, deciduous or permanent, and any special characteristics.

Note: By the time child is of school age, it is usually possible to use an examination sequence very similar to that for adults.) See pp. 306-316 for examples of forms used to chart physical growth.


Again this is a suggested outline, always modified by human variation, and that all percentages are subject to Gaussian distribution. History building can be facilitated by referring to baby books, report cards, pictures, and other materials the family may have at home. Of course, you must in a nonemergent situation begin with a full history and physical examination when you first see the patient (at whatever age).


History (particular attention)

Pertinent perinatal history

Social: Sleeping arrangements, housing

Stool pattern

Umbilicus: Healing, discharge, granulation

Diet: Feeding modality, schedule

Development: By this age:

80% will lift and turn head when in prone position

40% will follow an object to midline visually

35% will vocalize, become quiet in response to a voice

45% will regard a face intently, diminishing activity for the moment

Physical examination (particular attention)

Establish growth curves (weight, height, head circumference).

Examine hips.

Test reflexes: Moro, root, grasp, step.

Anticipatory guidance (particular attention)

Sleep (emphasize supine position and avoidance of soft and fuzzy threats to safe breathing)

Feeding: Use of pacifier (need to suck)

Use of bulb syringe (nasal stuffiness)

Safety: Falling, crib sides, car seats

Skin care


Illness: Temperature taking

Crying (holding the baby)

Plans and problems

What risks have revealed themselves as you got to know the family? What are apparent problems? Start a problem list and make appropriate dispositions.

Consider need for hemoglobin or hematocrit value.

Consider immunization needs and, throughout, attempt to follow American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines; on each visit, discuss benefits, risks, side effects of immunizations (always remember risks for the immunocompromised).


History (particular attention)

Expressions of parental concern

Child’s apparent temperament

Sleep cycle

Feeding patterns, frequency

Stooling pattern, frequency, color, consistency, straining

Be certain there is no probability of immunocompromise in patient or relevant family members or other contacts (before starting immunizations).

Social issues:
Father’s involvement

Living conditions

Smoking, other concerning habits

Any apparent high-risk concerns

Development: By this age

Gross motor:
80% will lift head to 45 degrees in prone position.

45% will lift head to as much as 90 degrees in prone position.

25% will roll over stomach to back.

Fine motor:
99%+ will follow a moving object to midline.

85% will follow a moving object past midline.

Almost all will diminish activity at the sound of a voice.

35% will spontaneously vocalize.

Many will vocalize responsively.

Almost all will diminish activity when regarding a face.

Almost all will respond to a friendly, cooing face with a social smile.

50% may smile spontaneously or even laugh aloud.

Physical examination (particular attention)

Growth curves (weight, height, head circumference)




Anticipatory guidance

Feeding (delay or at least downplay solids; avoid citrus, wheat, mixed foods, eggs; minimize water)

When and if mother returns to work


Straining at stool

Visual and auditory stimulus (mobiles, mirrors, rattles, singing and talking to baby)

Sibling rivalry (if there are siblings)

Babysitters (checking references, ensuring immunization status, reliability)

Safety (rolling over, playpen, car seat, discourage walker, no smoking)

Sleep (reemphasize location and supine position)

Smoking and contribution to poor health

Plans and problems

Review immunizations and implement as appropriate.

List problems (e.g., allergies, medications, any areas of concern), and make appropriate plans and, if necessary, referrals.

Consider need for hemoglobin or hematocrit value.


History (particular attention)

Parental concerns

Infant’s sleep cycle and temperament

Feeding patterns, frequency, mother’s feelings if she is breast-feeding

Stooling pattern, frequency, color, consistency, straining

Social issues:
Father’s involvement

Amplification of early impressions of home’s social structure

Smoking, other concerning habits

Any apparent high-risk concerns

Development: By this age

Gross motor:
80%, when prone, will lift chest up with arm support.

80% will roll over from stomach to back.

35% will have no head lag when pulled to sitting position, and many will then hold head steady when kept in that position.

Fine motor:
60% will reach for a dangling object.

Almost all will bring hands together.

Almost all will follow a face or object up to 180 degrees.

Almost all will laugh aloud.

20% will appear to initiate vocalization.

80% will smile spontaneously.

Many will regard their own hand for several seconds.

Physical examination (particular attention)

Update growth curves (weight, height, head circumference).

Reassess hearing.

Reassess vision.

Anticipatory guidance

Introduction of solid food (cereal)

Stool changes with changes in diet

Drooling and teething

Thumb sucking, pacifiers, bottles at bedtime

Safety (aspiration, rolling over, holding baby with hot liquids, reemphasize earlier discussions [e.g., car seat])

Reemphasis on environmental stimulus

Further discussion of babysitters

Use of antipyretics (e.g., acetaminophen)

Plans and problems

Review immunizations and implement as appropriate.

Maintain problem list, making appropriate plans and, if necessary, referrals.

Consider need for hematocrit or hemoglobin value.


History (interim details)

Parental concerns

Sleep patterns


Stooling pattern

Further exploration of social issues

If either parent has not attended these care visits regularly, encourage his or her participation, and address relevant issues.

Development: By this age

Gross motor:
90%, pulled to a sitting position, will have no head lag.

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Mar 25, 2017 | Posted by in PHYSIOLOGY | Comments Off on Age-Specific Examination

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