Teen Health Check-ups Screen Problems, Provide Early Solutions
The teenage years are a busy time for young people and parents and are filled with changes of many types: physical, emotional, and environmental. Many changes take place over the teen years physically, emotionally, and socially.
“Whether teens are in middle school or high school, preparing for college, or working full-time, they are making the transition into adulthood and independence. This is an important time to keep up on taking care of the young person’s physical and mental health,” said Ronald Charles, MD, vice president of medical affairs, Buckeye Community Health Plan.
Why are Well-Care Visits Important?
Well-care visits give healthcare providers a great opportunity to help teenagers who are at risk for preventable health problems. Counseling and treatment can help youngsters avoid or recover from problems including addictive behaviors like alcohol, smoking, and drug use; eating or mental disorders; sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, Dr. Charles said.
“The leading causes of adolescent fatal and non-fatal incidents are all avoidable. Well-care services are one way for teens to get the help they need,” he added.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents leave the examining room for a portion of the exam so that adolescents may freely discuss confidential health issues with their provider. According to Dr. Charles, this practice helps to ensure that important health concerns will not be overlooked due to a teen’s concern for privacy and provides an opportunity for adolescents to practice handling health issues independently.
What’s the Difference Between a Well-Care Exam and a Sports Physical?
Local high schools require athletes to provide proof of an annual physical exam in order to participate in high school sports. A sports physical is a simple exam that helps determine if it is safe for the athlete to participate in a particular sport.
By contrast, an annual well-care visit gives physicians a chance to perform a thorough physical exam and health assessment. It’s also a good chance to address important adolescent issues.
“Adolescent well-care visits offer an excellent opportunity to assess the overall health of the teen and to maintain a healthy immunization schedule by making certain that vaccines are current. It can be easy for parents to lose track of recommended preteen and teen immunization boosters,” Dr. Charles said.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (AICP) recently updated its recommendations and immunization schedule for children up to 18 years of age. The most current recommendations for preteen and teen immunizations include:
- *Tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap)
- *Human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV)
- *Meningococcal vaccine
- *Influenza (flu) vaccine
- *Hepatitis A vaccine (HepA)
- *Hepatitis B vaccine (HepB)
- *Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV)
- *Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR)
- *Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
Most side effects from vaccines are minor, if they occur at all. The doctor may have a child stay in the office for up to 15 minutes after shots are given to watch for reactions.
“Many parents worry that immunizations are dangerous if given when their child has a cold or other minor illness. Parents should talk to the child’s doctor regarding concerns about the timing of shots. Keep in mind that shots can usually still be given during a mild illness, while medicines are being taken, and in other situations where a child may not be in perfect health. There are very few reasons for which doctors suggest that a person postpone or not get an immunization,” Dr. Charles said.
Consult your doctor or public health department if your child missed an immunization or to find out whether your child needs a specific immunization.