What Teens Should Expect From Doctors, Part 1

Friday, May 25, 2012 9:40
Posted in category Health

If you’re like most teens, you avoid going to the doctor like the plague. Sure, you go for minor illnesses and sports physicals but steer clear of the doctor’s exam room if you can. If that sounds familiar, you might be surprised to learn how much healthcare you’re missing. In fact, the American Medical Association has specific guidelines for the care adolescents should get at their yearly checkups.

What You’re Up Against
The major health issues facing teens today are due to:

The things teens may do:

smoke cigarettes
use drugs
drink alcohol
drive drunk
eat poorly
get too little exercise
have unprotected sex
The thoughts and worries teens may have:

getting depressed
developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
attempting suicide
The environment in which teens may live:

family problems
school problems
exposure to violence
abuse — emotional, physical and sexual
Guidelines for Your Care
With these health issues in mind, the AMA established Guidelines for Adolescent Preventative Services. These guidelines are not silly things thought up to torture you at doctor visits, but well thought-out strategies to help keep you healthy.
Here’s what they recommend:

yearly doctor visits from ages 11 through 21
health services appropriate for your age and sensitive to your culture
confidential care
Confidential care is especially important. Assuring confidentiality is the only way you’re realistically going to talk about personal matters like sex. (Confidentiality does have limits — like if your life is in danger.)

At those yearly visits you should receive:
Health guidance and education about:

Growing up — physically, psychologically and sexually.
Becoming actively involved in your healthcare decisions.
Reducing injuries.
Eating healthy meals and properly managing your weight.
Exercising.
Engaging in responsible sexual behaviors like abstinence, using condoms or birth control.
Avoiding tobacco, alcohol, drugs and anabolic steroids.
You should also be screened for certain health conditions and behavior:

high blood pressure
high cholesterol (if needed)
eating disorders
tobacco use
drug abuse
sexual activity
sexually transmitted diseases — for all sexually active adolescents
HIV testing — for those at risk
cervical cancer using a Pap test — for all sexually active women or women age 18 and older
depression and suicide risk
emotional, physical or sexual abuse
learning or school problems
tuberculosis testing (if needed)
needed immunizations
If you think that’s a lot to do at a checkup, you’re right. But the reality is that teens face these health issues every day so these are the health services you should be receiving. If you’re not — if you’re still getting kiddie checkups and not teen-centered care — then it’s time for a change.
Here are some reasons you may not be getting the teen health services you deserve and what to do:

If your doctor isn’t asking you about these issues, then ask her why not.
If your doctor is asking but you’re not talking, then ask yourself why not and see if you can open up.
If you’re concerned about your privacy, then ask how your information will be kept confidential.

If your mom is in the exam room all the time, then tell her you have some questions you want to ask the doctor alone. Or come up with your own reasons and solutions since it may be up to you to seek out the healthcare you need.

Remember, your visits should be about your concerns, so if you have ones you don’t see here then definitely ask your doctor about them. And if your health provider isn’t comfortable dealing with teen issues, ask if he knows a teen specialist who is.

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