Studies show that as kids get older, they are less likely to see their doctor for their annual wellness visit.
This may come as no surprise. Families with babies and young children are used to regular checkups for immunizations, development markers and concerns regarding things like teething, toilet training and temper tantrums.
But by the time kids reach adolescence, they may be up to date on vaccines and the urgency for checkups wanes. Factor in packed family schedules, and wellness visits are often overlooked if a teen appears to be healthy.
“If kids do not require a signed physical form for sports or camp, the annual visit may fall off a family’s radar,” said Dr. David Karas, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Wadsworth. “Many families don’t realize the importance of regular preventive care for overall health and well-being.”
What to expect at your teen’s wellness visit
Yearly wellness visits are an important way for parents and providers to keep kids healthy from birth through age 21.
During a wellness visit, a pediatrician will offer preventive care by assessing and monitoring your teen’s physical, developmental, behavioral and emotional well-being.
The provider will make sure your teen is up to date on immunizations to prevent disease, assess her body mass index (BMI) to ensure she’s at a healthy weight and perform a complete physical exam from head to toe.
“Perhaps the most important part of the wellness visit for adolescents is the behavioral and emotional assessment,” said Dr. Karas, pointing out that’s why wellness visits should not be replaced by sports physicals. “Teens are going through tremendous changes psychologically and physically. While functioning independently for the first time, they are experiencing lots of stressors, from school troubles to mental illness to exploring sexuality.”
At the visit, much of the time will be spent talking about what’s going on in your adolescent’s life. A provider may ask about social issues, academic performance problems, the teen’s home environment, sleep issues and safety concerns, such as texting and driving, or wearing seatbelts. Wellness visits also provide a safe space for teens to talk about risky behaviors, such as sex, drinking and drugs.
In addition, pediatricians screen all adolescents for depression and suicidal thoughts.
“About 20 percent of teens will go through depression at one point during high school,” said Dr. Karas. “It’s crucial to identify it as soon as possible so kids can get the help they need.”
That’s why it’s so important to schedule a wellness visit for your child — no matter her age — once a year, every year.
“It really is a tremendously valuable visit for these age groups, and families don’t realize how much we can cover during an appointment,” said Dr. Karas. “Sometimes kids have issues that they can’t talk about with their parents, and we want to create a safe place for that. We’re here for parents, too, if they have questions about school performance, risky behavior or just about their child’s life in general.”
So, don’t delay. Schedule your teen’s yearly wellness visit by calling 330-543-2778. You also can log into MyChart to schedule or confirm the appointment, and receive an automatic reminder for it.