Annual physical exams are important during the teen years
By: Dan Palmquist, M.D.
It's the end of summer a busy time of year when most students and parents are concentrating on getting backpacks in order. With school starting in less than a month, you probably have enough on your plate and aren't necessarily looking for anything more to do. Fitting in a medical exam might feel like one task too many. After all, your child is healthy and active. Is an exam really that important?
The answer is a definite yes.
Typically, schools require physical examinations before allowing students to participate in sports activities, but there are other good reasons to have your child undergo an annual physical.
The teen years from 10 to 19 are typically ones of rapid growth and development, and an important time to maintain the practice of regular annual physical exams.
Four areas of development
The second area assessed is that of cognitive development or the process by which the brain develops the abilities to think, learn, reason, and remember. Teens gradually develop the ability to think in more sophisticated, abstract ways.
Emotional and social development is the third area that your physician will examine. Adolescents often experience fluctuating emotions from insecurity and self-consciousness to excitement and joy. Friends often take the place of family as the most socially influential persons in your teen's life.
Sensory and motor skills are also developing during the teen years. Your teen may seem clumsy or awkward as he or she adjusts to a rapidly growing body. Boys' strength and agility develops at a rapid rate, but both girls and boys can improve their strength by participating in sports and athletic activities.
Your teen's health history
Your teen's health history should be reviewed. If your child has asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other medical condition requiring ongoing treatment, your doctor will want to talk with you and your teen about its effects on his or her health and athletic activities.
Exercise history is also pertinent. This involves your child's history in relation to exercise. Has he or she ever had chest pain, or become lightheaded or faint after exercising? Has your child ever received a sports injury? If so, be sure to relay this to your physician.
Your doctor may ask questions about your teen's lifestyle habits. It's important to discuss these issues as honestly as possible, and you may want to allow your teen some time alone with the physician in order to facilitate this. This discussion may involve substance use and abuse including use of tobacco and alcohol, eating disorders, sexual behaviors, steroids, and performance enhancers.
The physical exam is also a time for you and your teen to ask questions and discuss any concerns that you have regarding health issues. This can involve any of the lifestyle habits mentioned above, as well as any other medical concerns.
The teen years are filled with changes on just about every level physical, cognitive, emotional, and social. As parents, most of us wouldn't have considered skipping a doctor's visit when our kids were toddlers, but now that they have entered the teen years, we may think they don't require regular physical examinations like when they were younger. This couldn't be further from the truth. Because of all the changes going on in an adolescent's life, regular physical exams are more important than ever.
Dr. Palmquist is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.