Understanding Risks Help Keep Teens Healthy

Peds6_400x265Perhaps the most important age for a pediatrician to monitor a child closely is during adolescence. Many times, at-risk health behaviors of pre-teens and teenagers are not noticed by schools, friends or even family members. Our board-certified pediatricians at Skagit Regional Health help parents to better understand risks through the following facts:

  • The leading cause of teenage death comes from unintentional injuries such as automobile crashes, intentional injuries such as homicide and suicide.
  • Alcohol and drug use contribute to many teenage injuries and deaths.
  • Obesity has become a major cause of teenage illness and contributes to the large increase in the number of teens with type 2 diabetes.
  • Tobacco use causes harm during the teen years and can lead to nicotine addiction that results in major illness and even death later in life.

Routine Adolescent Exams Offer Preventive Services

Pediatricians at Skagit Regional Health are able to integrate preventive services into routine medical exams for pre-teens and teenagers. Our physicians use clinic visits to offer the following:

  • Early identification of risk behavior and disease
  • Health and lifestyle guidance
  • Updating immunizations

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that a teenage girl visit a gynecologist between ages 13 and 15, although this first visit does not have to include a pelvic exam and Pap smear.

Screening Teens for Health and Lifestyle Issues

All pre-teens and teenagers should be screened for the following conditions during a physical examination:

  • Behaviors or emotions that indicate recurrent or severe depression or risk of suicide
  • Cervical cancer, as indicated
  • HIV infection
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Hypertension
  • Learning or school problems
  • Obesity and eating disorders
  • Physical, sexual and emotional abuse
  • Sexual behavior that may result in unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
  • Sexually transmitted infections, if sexually active
  • Substance use, including tobacco and alcohol
  • Tuberculosis

Lifestyle Counseling Helps Teens Understand Their Health Care

In addition to medical tests, teens should receive ongoing counseling regarding healthy habits and risk reduction in the following areas:

  • Avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, other abusable substances and anabolic steroids
  • Avoiding online behaviors that can have negative results, such as "sexting" and sharing of personal information and pictures with strangers
  • Use of bicycle and motorcycle helmets and car seat belts to reduce injuries
  • Healthy dietary habits, including ways to achieve a healthy diet and safe weight management
  • Optimal sleep time of 8 to 10 hours per day and healthy sleep habits
  • Regular exercise
  • Responsible sexual behaviors, including abstinence
  • Strategies to deal with bullying
  • Sun protection

Reviewing Immunizations to Prevent Disease

During the physical examination, doctors will review the adolescent’s immunization records to make sure they are current with the recommended, vaccines, including:

  • A booster dose of tetanus if it has been more than 5 years since their last dose
  • Annual influenza vaccine
  • Hepatitis A vaccine 
  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine
  • Meningococcal vaccine
  • Pneumococcal vaccine if they are at high risk for infection
  • Varicella vaccine (chicken pox)

For More Information About Pre-Teen and Teenage Health

If you have questions about the health of your pre-teen or teenager, please contact one of our team members at Skagit Regional Health’s pediatric services. We offer convenient locations, some with extended hours that work well for busy families.