Six ways regular doctor visits can help your teenager stay healthy

By Erik Gulbrandsen DO

Most parents are happy to bring in their young children for regular well-child check-ups with their doctor, but what about teenagers? Do they need regular visits to the doctor? YES!

teenagerCheckup

Small children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from regular visits to the doctor. With so many developmental changes happening, teens need routine doctor visits as well.

When parents accompany their teen, there is an added benefit. Often parents don’t feel comfortable talking about sexual health and other difficult topics. When I bring those up in a routine appointment, the teenager may blush, but the topic now opens up for parents to continue the discussion in the home.

Here is a short list of the topics I like to discuss with teens and their parents:

  • Auto safety. Accidents are still the number-one cause of death for teens. I like to reinforce what parents are already saying about seat belts, speed limits, texting or drinking while driving, and showing off.
  • Alcohol and drug use. Prescription drug abuse is becoming a huge issue. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Utah has the fourth-highest prescription drug overdose rate in the nation. If parents are taking prescription pain medications, they need to keep them locked up.
  • Sexual health. Teens have questions about their bodies. They also have questions about sex. The goal with adolescents is to try to prevent sexual activity. Their brains are not fully developed, and they shouldn’t be making decisions about intimacy. But what we know is that they will make those decisions, and not talking about it doesn’t work. I try to help Mom and Dad create an open and safe environment for those discussions.
  • Sports safety. Kids who are active in a sport should see a doctor every year, whether the school requires it or not. One major concern is to make sure that previous injuries have healed before starting a new season. We especially need to be acutely alert for concussions.
  • Depression. Suicide is the third-most common cause of death in teenagers. Depression often goes undiagnosed in adolescents. During a wellness visit I can talk to parents about signs to watch for.
  • Obesity. I teach the 5-2-1-almost none rule. At least five fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of multimedia time, one hour of exercise, and almost no sweets every day. If they can do that, we can significantly cut down on obesity. It just works.

Even if your teen seems healthy, regular physician visits are a great idea. Talk to your doctor to learn more.