Physicals and Checkups: Why They're Extra Meaningful for Teens

As you start to prepare your child for a new school year, a physical exam or checkup might be on the to-do list. And for good reason. Adolescence is a vital time for regular health care visits.

Teens and tweens are forming habits that may affect their health for the rest of their lives. Many risk factors and behaviors that can lead to adult diseases begin in the teen years. What’s more, some are being drawn toward risky behaviors that could endanger them now or in the future. The right care approach can help detect and prevent problems.

Home Sweet ‘Medical Home’

No matter the catalyst for your teen’s checkup — whether it be a sports physical or pre-college physical — make sure your child continues to see a pediatrician throughout their teenage years for any comprehensive physical exam. Why? Think of your child’s pediatric practice as their medical home — an environment where their medical history is best known and you’re both building a trusting, collaborative relationship with a pediatric team. Your child’s medical home will help support the long-term goal of quality medical care for your child as he or she grows into adulthood.

Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the Best Choice for a Well Child Exam:

They understand teens best. Pediatricians focus on health issues and concerns unique to teens and young adults. “We are experts in providing teens with age-appropriate care — from administering regular screenings and vaccines to discussing developmental and mental health,” says Brian Zack, MD, a general pediatrician with Pediatricenter – Bainbridge.

They can help address sensitive issues that are unique to teens. Here, according to Dr. Zack, are a few examples of what they’re trained to manage:

  • Offering advice to reduce risky behaviors, such as substance abuse and high-risk sexual activity
  • Checking for problems related to social, mental or emotional health, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or safety needs
  • Addressing issues related to puberty and/or sexual or reproductive health

They’re well-qualified to check everything else. Pediatricians can also provide the basic, routine health care checks that come with a comprehensive physical exam, Dr. Zack says, including:

  • Screening for diseases and disorders such as cardiac abnormalities, diabetes, sickle cell trait, concussions, musculoskelatal abnormalities and rare, potentially serious conditions or physical health issues
  • Providing preventive care, and ensuring health screenings and vaccines are up to date
  • Advice related to eating, exercise and sleep habits

“Most important, be sure to give your child some private time during the appointment to talk to the doctor in confidence," Dr. Zack says. "And remember, you and your teen should both feel comfortable with your doctor to cover sensitive issues. Pediatricians help your child develop the autonomy and maturity they will need to make independent medical decisions as an adult."

Related links

UH Rainbow pediatric practices are offering extended office hours in May to accommodate and prioritize teen well visits as part of Teen Health Month. Call for an appointment today.

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