The transition from child to teen can be a challenging route to navigate – for both individual adolescents and their surrounding family. As the entire body experiences dramatic changes in hormone levels, resulting in both mental and physical changes, it’s important to maintain a continuous connection with your doctor.
From school bullying and balancing life with an after school job, to going through puberty and body changes, it can often be a struggling time for any teen.
Speaking openly with teenagers can provide a platform for much needed advice and also an opportunity to identify the early warning signs or symptoms of deteriorating mental health. In many cases, however, this is often easier said than done – that’s why we’ve created a list of the most important health checks for teens, to help build a solid foundation for good health.
What to expect during health checks
While there are specialised health checks for skin, vision, hearing and dental, an average visit to your doctor for a check up will likely be centred around checking your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.
For children, teens and adults, height and weight is also recorded to generate a baseline for future visits and to ensure that you are within a healthy weight range for your age. In some cases, your doctor may also suggest a blood test, which provides a clearer picture of any vitamin deficiencies or imbalances within the body.
During health checks for teenagers, doctors may also ask about the persons sexual activity, in order to provide support, advice and recommend any additional tests to promote overall good health. At the time of consultation, provide any information about your life and relationships that you feel comfortable discussing with your doctor.
The importance of preventive pediatric health care
Preventative care is one of the most effective means for promoting positive health at all ages.
Regularly scheduled visits with a doctor can provide parents with advice and insight into the growth and development of their child.
As children age, it’s crucial to continue these visits. Not only will these sessions allow a health professional to identify any early warning signs of high blood pressure or risk of diseases, but they also provide a platform for teenagers to seek advice about other things – such as new feelings they may be experiencing and any general health queries.
Discuss family history with your health professional
By discussing family history with your doctor, you provide valuable insight into your individual circumstances. A health professional can use this information to note any potential risk factors, allowing them to deliver a more effective health check moving forward.
It’s important to consider all physical and mental health issues within the family that may negatively impact your health and wellbeing.
Understanding mental health issues in young people
Emotional changes in puberty have the potential to spiral into more serious mental health issues, if they are not addressed. As the age of your child increases, they simultaneously experience shifts in social behaviours, exposure to sexual activity, changing school environments and added responsibility.
Considering these factors, many studies point towards teenagers being at risk of developing negative self image, anxiety and depression. While it’s not always easy to give a teenager advice, it’s crucial that your child knows that they have a support system, to reduce the risk of escalating negative thoughts or feelings.
Although it’s important to be there for your child, understandably, they may not feel comfortable discussing their mental health with a parent. Your GP can conduct a mental health check with your child and offer ongoing support as needed.
The risks of smoking and alcohol in adolescents
As we develop a better understanding of mental health in teenagers, it’s important to consider that many studies suggest links between alcohol use and depression.
Risk-taking behaviours, such as drug and alcohol use, can often be early signs of deteriorating mental health. That being said, if someone is already facing challenges with their mental wellbeing, the use of illicit or illegal substances can easily worsen the condition.
Alcohol and drug use can affect both the physical and mental state of a person, resulting in long term health problems.
Sexual health check
It’s important for a doctor to know if teens are sexually active. With this information, doctors can include a sexual health check during consultations and discuss risk factors associated with sexually transmitted diseases (such as cold sores and HSV), unplanned pregnancy, safe sex practices and any further testing that may be needed to ensure safety and wellbeing.
A sexual health check does not always involve a physical exam and is sometimes as basic as asking some questions and taking a urine sample to test.
How often should teenagers have sexual health checks?
There is no set timeframe surrounding how often teenagers should go for a sexual health check up, but your physician will be able to recommend a period, following a risk assessment.
As an example, your GP may suggest more frequent consultations and additional tests if a teenager is over the age of 15, is sexually active or has multiple partners.
Skin check services
While developing skin cancer during teenage years isn’t common, it is still possible.
Living in Australia, skin checks are a vital part of adequate healthcare and act as a preventative course of action for preventing skin cancer.
Self examination is important when it comes to your skin, because nobody knows it better than yourself. If you notice any new moles, lumps or changes in colouring of existing moles, it’s a good idea to check in with your GP or dermatologist.
Other skin concerns for a teen
After checking for skin cancer and other abnormalities, it may also be helpful to check in with your child about other skin concerns they may have. Although it is a normal part of puberty for many, acne can cause low self esteem and negative self image. Prescription acne treatments can reduce the appearance and minimise the discomfort of inflammation.
Dental check up
Regardless of age, everyone should be booking in for a regular dental check up. Regular visits to the dentist can assist in preventing gum disease and tooth decay. In a perfect world, we would all adhere to a strict 6 month timeframe between each dentist visit, but when this isn’t possible, you should still aim to schedule a yearly appointment as the minimum.
Vision and hearing
Hearing and vision screening tests are common in the early years of life and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the later years of life. In many cases, however, these health checks can easily drop off the radar during teenage years. Tests for vision and hearing follow an easy process and can help to identify degenerative eye behaviour before it worsens.
In the age of screens and technology, eye tests have never been more important for teenagers.
Self checks for adolescents
While a health professional can provide many invaluable services, self checks also play a crucial role in identifying any possible changes within your body that may be detrimental to your health.
For young men, a testicle self check is important. At this age, a formal check up isn’t required, but your teen should be aware of how their body normally looks and feels, in order to identify any changes, such as lumps. Testicle self checks are one of the most effective means of identifying the early stages of testicular cancer.
Alternatively, young women should be conducting at home breast checks. Breast awareness is an ongoing self assessment throughout your lifetime. Being familiar with the usual feel and look of your body allows you to be notice any sudden or unusual changes, such as the formation of lumps or unidentifiable pain.
Nurturing the wellbeing of teens
Talking to teenagers and offering support can often alleviate worry for both parties.
In the all consuming world of high school, it can be easy to forget that there is a whole world out there, waiting for you and your next adventure. Regularly checking in with your child allows you to learn new ways to assist them during this life changing transition.
An example of promoting good mental health
Studies point towards stress and body image issues playing a lead role in the decline of mental health for many teens.
A positive way to nurture mental health can be as simple as helping your child to identify a technique or activity that allows them to effectively destress and reflect. Although you may need to try a few different options before finding a method that works, this is a valuable skill that will help them to achieve a healthier balance, both in the present and through to adulthood.
We’re here to help
At hub.health, we offer a range of innovative services for skincare and positive sexual health, for ages 18 and over. If you’re concerned about your physical or mental health, start a conversation to discover solutions and tips for achieving a happier, healthier you!