What to Expect During This Visit
Your doctor and/or nurse will probably:
1. Check your teen's weight and height, calculate body mass index (BMI), and plot the measurements on growth charts.
2. Check your teen's blood pressure and vision using standard testing equipment.
3. Ask questions, address concerns, and offer advice about your teen's:
Eating. Teens should eat three meals a day that include lean protein, whole grains, at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, and three servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Limit foods and drinks that are high in sugar and fat.
Sleeping. Teens generally need about 9 hours of sleep per night. Inadequate sleep is common during the teen years and can have negative effects on school and athletic performance. Changes to the circadian clock make teens want to stay up later, but early school start times can make it hard for them to get enough sleep. Establish a bedtime that allows for adequate sleep and encourage your teen to follow a relaxing bedtime routine.
Physical activity. Teens should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Encourage your teen to limit his or her screen time to no more than 2 hours daily, not including time spent on homework. Set a good example by limiting your own screen time and exercising daily.
Growth and development. By 17 years, it's common for teens to:
- if female, have gotten their first period by now. If your daughter hasn't, talk to your doctor.
- if male, to show signs of pubertal development, including testicular enlargement, penile lengthening, and growth of pubic hair
- be influenced by their peer group
- explore different identities to help them determine where they fit in
- have sexual feelings. This includes an interest in dating and relationships, exploring one's sexuality, and addressing questions of sexual orientation.
- begin to think abstractly and reflect on how to make decisions, but still be impulse driven and not think about the consequences of his or her actions
4. Perform a physical exam. The doctor will check for the signs of puberty and may perform a breast or testicular exam. A chaperone should be present during this part of the exam.
5. Update immunizations. Immunizations can protect people from serious illnesses, so it's important that your teen receive them on time. Immunization schedules can vary from office to office, so talk to your doctor about what to expect.
6. Order tests. Your doctor may assess your teen's risk for anemia, high cholesterol, and tuberculosis and order tests, if needed.
Here are some things to keep in mind until your next routine visit at 18 years:
- Encourage your teen to participate in a variety of activities, such as music, arts, exercise, after-school clubs, or other areas of interest.
- Encourage your teen to take personal responsibility for schoolwork. Praise accomplishments and provide support in areas where your teen is struggling.
- Talk to your teen about future college or work plans. If your teen is struggling in school, investigate to find out if bullying, depression, a learning disability, or substance abuse is to blame.
- Talk openly about sex and encourage your teen to wait until older to engage in sexual activity with others. Explain the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancy. But if he or she is sexually active, reinforce the importance of contraceptive and condom use.
- Teens are increasingly aware of body image. Be aware of the signs of eating disorders: compulsive exercising, refusing to eat, rapid weight loss, and binge eating. To encourage a healthy weight, let your teen assist you with meal planning and grocery shopping.
- Your teen should brush his or her teeth twice daily, floss once a day, and see a dentist once every 6 months.
- Talk about the dangers of smoking, alcohol, and drugs, inhalants, and other means to get high. Praise your teen for abstaining from these activities.
- Look for signs of depression, which can include irritability, depressed mood, loss of interest in activities, poor academic performance, and talk of suicide.
- If you haven't already, schedule a gynecologist visit for your daughter. This first visit typically does not involve a pelvic exam, unless she is having problems.
- The right time to switch to an adult doctor depends on your and your teen's desires, as well as your pediatrician's practice. Talk to the pediatrician about when is the right time. Teens generally begin seeing an adult doctor at age 18, but some wait until age 21. In the meantime, encourage your teen to take a role in managing medical care by learning to do things like schedule doctor's appointments, order prescriptions, and care for any chronic conditions.
- Teens should always wear a seatbelt while in a vehicle.
- As your teen starts driving, set limits for the number of passengers allowed what hours he or she may drive. Explain the dangers of texting and other cell phone use while driving.
- Talk about the dangers of drinking and driving and tell your teen to never get in a car with someone who has been drinking. Instead, let your teen know to always call you for help.
- Prevent gun injuries by not keeping a gun in the home. If you do have a gun, keep it unloaded and locked away. Ammunition should be locked up separately.
These checkup sheets are consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)/Bright Futures guidelines.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013