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 smoking and drinking.
The doctor also can help your child understand the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, proper exercise, and safety measures.
The more that teens understand about their physical growth and sexual development, the more they will recognize the importance of active involvement in their own health care.
Teens should visit their doctors annually. At least three of these visits should include a complete physical examination:
If your child has a chronic medical condition or if certain clinical signs or symptoms are present, more frequent exams might be needed.
Medical care should include screenings for high blood pressure, obesity, eating disorders, and, if indicated, hyperlipidemia (an excess of cholesterol and/or other fats in the blood). A tuberculin (PPD) test may be done if your teen is at risk for tuberculosis.
Your teen's doctor will also check his or her teeth 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.
Vision and hearing will be checked. Teens are also checked for scoliosis (curvature of the spine).
By the age of 13, teens should have already completed the following immunizations:
Doctors recommend administering the Tdap booster at 11-12 years of age, with a tetanus and diptheria booster (Td) every 10 years thereafter. The Tdap vaccine is also recommended for all pregnant women during the second half of each pregnancy, regardless of whether or not they had it before, or when it was last given. The flu vaccine, given before flu season each year, also is recommended.
As kids go through puberty, issues of sexual health will be addressed. Young women may be referred to a gynecologist for a first visit. Young men 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 suicide. The doctor also should provide counseling about risky behaviors and other issues, including:
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.
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 situation.
Sports injuries are common concerns. Osgood-Schlatter disease, 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 joints, muscles, or other areas of the body.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Adolescent Health Transition Project This is a health and transition resource for adolescents with special health care needs, chronic illnesses, and physical or developmental disabilities.|
|CDC: Pre-teen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, pre-teens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.|
|When Your Child Outgrows Pediatric Care Help your teen or young adult make the transition from pediatric health care to adult health care. Get tips on finding a new doctor and getting health insurance.|
|A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years You've lived through 2 AM feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the back-to-school blues. So why is the word "teenager" causing you so much anxiety?|
|Fitness and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old Kids who enjoy exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. Learn how to encourage fitness in your teen.|
|Growth and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old Kids entering puberty will undergo many changes in their developing bodies, which are often quite dramatic. Find out more about what to expect.|
|Choosing Your Own Doctor We all deserve a doc who helps us feel comfortable and understood – and who can guide our medical care in a way we need. Get tips on finding the best doctor for you.|
|Giving Teens a Voice in Health Care Decisions Involving teens in their health care can help prepare them for managing it on their own as adults.|
|Health Care: What Do You Know? How much do you know about taking charge of your health care? Take our quiz and find out!|
|Primary Care Doctors: Who's Who A primary care physician is your first stop for medical care. Find out more about the primary care doctors who treat teens.|
|Understanding Puberty Puberty was awkward enough when you were the one going through it. So how can you help your kids through all the changes?|
|Finding Low-Cost Medical Care If you need medical care but don't think you can afford it, you're not alone. Get tips on finding low-cost or free care in this article for teens.|
|Communication and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old Teens spend much of the day outside the home, but it's important that you take time every day to talk with your teen to share opinions, ideas, and information.|
|Your Medical Records Each time you hop up on a doctor's exam table, somebody makes a note in your medical records. There may come a time when you need your medical information, so find out how to get it and how it's protected.|
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