Health Topics

Teenagers, Doctors and Healthcare Visits

Teens and younger school-aged children, like adults, should visit their doctor once a year for a full history and physical exam. If a chronic medical condition exists or if signs or symptoms of an illness or disease are present, more frequent office visits may be necessary.

What Doctors Check During a Teen Healthcare Visit?

During your healthcare visit, your doctor may perform any of the following:

  • Measure your height, weight and blood pressure.
  • Order tests (such as a check for anemia) to gauge your general health, find certain diseases or determine if you are at risk for certain health problems.
  • Check young men for hernias and testicular cancer, and teach testicular self examination.
  • Screen for sexually transmitted diseases with a simple urine test.
  • Teach young girls after age 20 how to perform a self breast examination, and educate on when to obtain a pelvic examination. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends a pelvic examination at 21 years, or 3 years after having started sexual intercourse. Girls no longer need a pelvic examination just because they have turned 18.
  • Check your immunization record and catch you up on any necessary booster shots (to reduce the risk of contracting chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, hepatitis, human papillomavirus, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus).
  • Check your teeth for signs of tooth decay, abnormal tooth development, dental injuries and other oral health problems.
  • Ask you about potentially harmful behaviors and social or emotional problems.

What Are Common Health-Related Concerns of Teens?

Issues involving weight, body image, disease prevention, puberty and sexual development are typical concerns of this age group. Sports injuries are also common. These rules, which you can discuss in greater detail with your doctor, will keep you healthy:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including adequate calcium.
  • Don’t smoke or use any type of tobacco or smokeless tobacco product. Avoid breathing second-hand smoke.
  • Use all safety and protective devices designed for the activity in which you are engaged.
  • For example, use seat belts when driving, bike helmets when bicycle riding and protective equipment when participating in sports.
  • Never drink and drive, and never get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking or taking illegal drugs.
  • Tell your parents or doctor if you are having learning problems or difficulties at school.
  • Ask for help in learning how to resolve conflicts without the use of violence. Avoid situations in which fighting may break out and cause you to be physically harmed.
  • Tell your parents or doctor if you are feeling really sad or are thinking about harming yourself.
  • If you are having sex, use condoms plus a second method of contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Saying "no" is always an option.