Adolescent Well-Care Visits: Ages 12-21
The American Academy of Pediatrics and Bright Futures recommend annual well-care visits during adolescence to promote healthy behaviors, prevent risky ones, and detect conditions that can interfere with a teen’s physical, social, and emotional development.
During adolescence, well visits include routine examination (e.g., heart, lungs, genitalia, skin, internal organs, reflexes, vision, hearing) and urine tests. In many cases, they also include making sure immunizations are up to date, especially before the teen enters college.
Your teen may be asked about smoking, drug and alcohol use, and sexual activity, and observed for signs of emotional or psychological distress. Annual wellness exams can help make sure your teen enters adulthood with good health habits and a sense of responsibility about his or her well-being.
Adolescence is thought of as the healthiest stage of life. Most infectious disease and developmental issues of childhood are left behind and the chronic illnesses of adulthood have yet to appear. But adolescents face many challenges that are unique to their stage of life.
• Rapid physical growth, changing hormones, and sexual maturity.
• Social and behavioral factors that lead to morbidity and mortality.
• Over 70% of adolescent deaths are the result of injuries from four causes: motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Three out of four adolescents engage in at least one risk behavior, yet these behaviors all too often remain unidentified until problems develop. They are seldom discussed with health care providers.
• Substance abuse, pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, depression, eating disorders, suicide, and violence, are common issues that can cause health crises for today’s adolescents.
• An annual confidential wellness exam is one vital key to improving adolescent health.
• It is needed to keep up with the changing needs of adolescents, but even more importantly, to develop a trusting relationship that fosters the discussion of sensitive issues. In fact, every visit should be viewed as an opportunity to ask about risky behaviors and provide brief counseling. It’s about taking advantage of teachable moments.
If you’re a healthy adult, you’ll likely only need to be seen once a year for a physical exam, also known as a preventive visit. If you’re managing a chronic condition, you may need to be seen you more often.