By meeting yearly with your teen, the doctor can keep track of
changes in physical, mental, and social development and offer
advice against unhealthy behaviors, such as
The doctor also can help your child understand the importance of
choosing a healthy lifestyle that includes good
, and safety measures. The more teens understand about their
, the more they will recognize the importance of active involvement
in their own health care.
What to Expect at the Doctor's Office
Teens should visit their doctors annually. At least three of
these visits should include a complete physical examination: one
performed during early adolescence (ages 11 to 14), one during
middle adolescence (ages 15 to 17), and one during late adolescence
(ages 18 to 21). If your child has a chronic medical condition or
if certain clinical signs or symptoms are present, more frequent
exams may be needed.
Medical care should include screenings for high blood pressure,
, and, if indicated, hyperlipidemia (an excess of cholesterol
and/or other fats in the blood). A tuberculin (PPD) test may be
administered if your teen is at risk for
Your teen's doctor will also check his or her
for tooth decay, abnormal tooth development, malocclusion (abnormal
bite), dental injuries, and other problems. Your teen should also
continue to have regular checkups with your dentist.
will be checked. Teens are also checked for
(curvature of the spine).
Teens should receive a diphtheria and
booster (Td) 10 years after their last childhood booster (usually
at age 4 to 6 years) and every 10 years thereafter. They should
have already completed their other
, including varicella (if they have not had
(MMR); and the
B series (Hep B). If your teen will be living in a group setting,
such as a college dormitory, ask the doctor if the meningococcal
meningitis vaccine also is required.
As kids go through puberty, issues of sexual health will be
addressed. Your doctor will teach your daughter how to perform a
monthly breast exam. The doctor also might perform (or refer her to
a gynecologist for) a gynecologic exam and a Pap smear to check for
. Males will be checked for hernias and testicular cancer and
taught to perform a testicular self-exam.
Teens should be asked about behaviors or emotional problems that
may indicate depression or the risk of
. The doctor also should provide counseling about risky behaviors
and other issues, including:
- sexual activities that may result in unintended pregnancy and
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- emotional, physical, and sexual abuse
- use of alcohol and other substances, including anabolic
- use of tobacco products, including cigarettes and smokeless
- use of alcohol while driving
- use of safety devices, including
, and protective sports gear
- how to resolve conflicts without
, including how to avoid the use of weapons
- learning problems or difficulties at school
- appropriate warm-ups before exercise and importance of
regular physical activity
If You Suspect a Medical Problem
Parents or other caregivers should receive health guidance at
least once during early, middle, and late adolescence from their
teen's doctor. During these sessions, the doctor will provide
information about normal development, including signs and symptoms
of illness or emotional distress and methods to monitor and manage
potentially harmful behaviors.
If you suspect that your teen has a physical disorder, a
psychological problem, or a problem with drugs or alcohol, contact
your doctor immediately.
Common Medical Problems
Issues involving puberty and sexual development are typical
concerns for this age group. Doctors who establish a policy of
confidentiality can serve as a valuable resource for a teen by
answering questions and providing guidance during this period of
physical and emotional changes. Teens should be reassured that
anything they discuss with their doctor will be kept confidential,
unless their health or the health of others is endangered by the
are common concerns.
, a painful inflammation of the area just below the front of the
knee, is particularly common in the early teen years. Knee pain is
also a frequent complaint. Your teen's doctor should evaluate
any severe or persistent pain of the
, muscles, or other areas of the body.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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