Annual health care visits (also called well-child visits) allow doctors and other health care professionals to monitor physical growth Physical Growth During adolescence (usually considered age 10 to the late teens), boys and girls reach adult height and weight and undergo sexual maturation ( puberty). The timing and speed with which these... read more and sexual maturation Sexual Maturation (Puberty) During adolescence (usually considered age 10 to the late teens), boys and girls reach adult height and weight and undergo sexual maturation ( puberty). The timing and speed with which these... read more (puberty) and provide advice and counseling. The yearly health care visits for adolescents begin at age 11 and continue until about age 21.
Routine health care also includes a review of the immunization record and administration of recommended vaccines Common Vaccinations in Children Immunization (vaccination) helps the body defend itself against diseases caused by certain bacteria or viruses. Immunity (the ability of the body to defend itself against diseases caused by... read more .
Doctors also may encourage activities such as participation in sports, the arts, and community service. Most doctors interview and examine adolescents privately, although parents may be invited to participate and share concerns and receive their own counseling and guidance at the beginning or end of the visit.
(See also Adolescent Development Adolescent Development During adolescence, children become young adults. They undergo striking physical, intellectual, and emotional changes. However, the path to adulthood is not a straight line. Adolescents do not... read more and Problems in Adolescents Introduction to Problems in Adolescents For most children, adolescence is a period of good physical health. The most common problems during adolescence relate to Growth and development School Childhood illnesses that continue into... read more .)
At each visit, screenings may be done and vaccinations Childhood Vaccination Schedules Vaccination protects children against many infectious diseases. Vaccines contain either noninfectious components of bacteria or viruses or whole forms of these organisms that have been weakened... read more are given depending on the schedule.
The adolescent's height, weight, and blood pressure are measured at every yearly health care visit. The doctor then does a complete physical examination.
Once children become adolescents, certain areas of the body require a more detailed examination. For example, examination of the skin for acne, evaluation of the degree of puberty, and examination of the back for scoliosis Diagnosis Scoliosis is abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can be present at birth or can develop during adolescence. Mild forms may cause only mild discomfort, but more severe forms can cause... read more are particularly important in adolescence.
A pelvic examination Pelvic Examination For gynecologic care, a woman should choose a health care practitioner with whom she can comfortably discuss sensitive topics, such as sex, birth control, pregnancy, and problems related to... read more is not usually necessary in adolescent girls but may be appropriate if they have certain problems, such as vaginal bleeding or discharge, or if sexual abuse is suspected. The pelvic examination may include an examination of the external genitals (called the vulva or labia) or, if necessary, an internal examination.
The doctor may educate girls about breast self-awareness to become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of their breasts. If girls notice changes in how their breasts appear or feel (for example, masses, thickening, or enlargement), they should see a doctor. Girls are not advised to routinely do a breast self-examination Breast examination Breast disorders may be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Most are noncancerous and not life threatening. Often, they do not require treatment. In contrast, breast cancer can mean... read more , such as every week or month, because this has not been shown to be an effective method of screening for breast cancer Symptoms Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast become abnormal and divide into more cells uncontrollably. Breast cancer usually starts in the glands that produce milk (lobules) or the tubes ... read more .
Older adolescent boys are examined for testicular masses, and boys of all ages are examined for inguinal hernias Diagnosis An inguinal hernia is a protrusion of a piece of intestine or another abdominal organ through an opening in the abdominal wall in the groin. People have a bulge in the groin or scrotum, which... read more . The doctor may educate adolescent boys about testicular self-examination Symptoms Testicular cancer occurs in the testes, the 2 small organs in males that make sperm. Testicular cancer is most common among young men but usually curable. Usually a painless lump is present... read more to identify masses.
A blood cholesterol level test Measuring lipid levels The body needs fats (lipids) for growth and energy. It also uses them to synthesize hormones and other substances needed for the body’s activities. The body may deposit excess fat in blood vessels... read more should be done for all children between 9 and 11 years of age and again between 17 and 21 years of age. More frequent testing may be recommended for young children and adolescents with obesity or those with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.
Adolescents are screened for tuberculosis (TB) risk factors with a questionnaire at all well-child visits. Risk factors include exposure to TB, being born in or having traveled to areas of the world where TB is common (countries other than the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and Western and North European countries), having a family member who has TB, and having parents or close contacts who are recent immigrants from an area where TB is common or who have recently been in jail. Those with risk factors then usually have tuberculosis screening tests Screening Tests for Tuberculosis Tuberculosis is a chronic contagious infection caused by the airborne bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but almost any organ can be involved. Tuberculosis... read more done.
Once adolescents are sexually active, doctors may screen them every year for common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Sexually transmitted infection (STI) refers to an infection that is passed through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids during oral, anal, or genital sex with an infected partner... read more , such as gonorrhea Gonorrhea Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infect the lining of the urethra, cervix, rectum, or throat, or the membranes that cover... read more and chlamydia Chlamydial Infections Chlamydia are bacteria that cause disease in humans, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and infections of the eyes and respiratory tract. Three species of Chlamydia... read more . Screening is done using samples of urine or samples taken from the rectum, urethra, cervix, or throat.
Doctors may screen an adolescent for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection at least once between the ages of 15 years and 18 years. HIV screening should be done every year for adolescents who are sexually active, have another STI, or use or have used injection drugs. Screening is done with a sample of blood.
Doctors generally begin screening women for cervical cancer Cervical Cancer Cervical cancer develops in the cervix (the lower part of the uterus). Most cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Cervical cancer usually results from infection... read more at age 21 years. Screening is done with samples of cells taken from the cervix (Pap test Screening for Cervical Cancer Sometimes doctors recommend screening tests, which are tests that are done to look for disorders in people who have no symptoms. If women have symptoms related to the reproductive system (gynecologic... read more ).
All people should be routinely screened for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection at least once between the ages of 18 and 79. People at increased risk of HCV infection, including those who have used or who currently use injection drugs, should be tested for HCV infection and reassessed every year. Screening is done with a sample of blood.
Most of a routine health care visit involves a psychosocial screening interview and counseling. The screening interview includes questions regarding the home environment, academic achievement and goals, activities and hobbies, engagement in risk-taking behaviors Intellectual and Behavioral Development During adolescence, children become young adults. They undergo striking physical, intellectual, and emotional changes. However, the path to adulthood is not a straight line. Adolescents do not... read more , mental health Overview of Psychosocial Problems in Adolescents Psychologic and social (psychosocial) problems, particularly involving behavioral and school issues, are more common during adolescence than at any other time during childhood. Adolescents are... read more , and emotional health Emotional Development During adolescence, children become young adults. They undergo striking physical, intellectual, and emotional changes. However, the path to adulthood is not a straight line. Adolescents do not... read more . Counseling usually revolves around physical and psychosocial development Social and Psychologic Development During adolescence, children become young adults. They undergo striking physical, intellectual, and emotional changes. However, the path to adulthood is not a straight line. Adolescents do not... read more , healthy lifestyles, and injury prevention.
Injury prevention is discussed with adolescents. Counseling typically includes wide-ranging topics such as
The importance of wearing seatbelts
The dangers of drinking and driving and texting and driving
Internet and app dangers and appropriate cautions
Nutrition and exercise
Overweight and obesity Obesity in Adolescents Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than the 95th percentile for age and gender. Although genetics and some disorders cause obesity, most adolescent obesity results... read more are common in the United States and are associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. To combat the risk of obesity, parents should continue to provide adolescents with healthy food choices and limit their intake of unhealthy foods. Soda and excessive fruit juice drinking have been implicated as major contributors to obesity.
Inactivity is directly linked to obesity. Screen time (for example, television, video games, cell phones and other handheld devices, and noneducational computer time) may result in inactivity and obesity. Limits on the time a child spends using devices with screens should start at birth and be maintained throughout adolescence. Participation in sports and physical activity should continue to be encouraged as adolescents age.