Yearly Teen Physicals: A Foundation for Good Health

Brooks Michael's picture
By Brooks Michael on August 15, 2018

Your teen is healthy and happy, so why would you need to worry about an annual physical?

I can give you several reasons, but the most important one is that it will help keep your teenager healthy and happy.

Connecting yearly with teens allows health care providers to track changes in physical, mental and social development, which happen at a rapid pace during the teen years.

Below are more reasons why:

1. It’s Not Always Obvious
You might have a great relationship with your teen, but that doesn’t mean he shares everything with you. A yearly check in with a provider is a great opportunity to discover any underlying health issues that your teen might not have discussed with you or was possibly not even aware of himself. 

2. Derail Risky Behaviors
This might not come as a surprise to you, but a teenager’s brain functions differently than an adult’s brain. Blame it all on the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, but teens are actually hard wired to be more likely to indulge in risky behaviors.

According to the American College of Preventive Medicine, three out of four adolescents engage in at least one risk behavior, yet these behaviors often remain unidentified until obvious problems develop. 

We are trained to ask the right questions and don’t shy away from things that might make other parents squirm in their seats. A private discussion with a health care provider can go a long way with teens and help them make better choices.

3. Develop a Trusted Relationship
This one is essential for the first two items on the list above. If your teen only sees his doctor sporadically or hardly at all, it can be hard to develop a trusting relationship.

Teens who have a relationship with their provider are more likely to respond openly when their doctor asks, “how are you doing; what's going on with you?”

4. Create Life-Long Health Habits
Regular check-ins can also help teens develop good, life-long health habits. The more that teens understand about their own physical growth and sexual development, the more they will recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle and active involvement in their own health care.
5. Identify, Manage and Protect
At the yearly physical, your provider will not only talk to your teen about the issues mentioned above, but she will also do the following:  

  • Identify and manage chronic illnesses, such as asthma and diabetes
  • Monitor growth and development  
  • Administer any needed immunizations
  • Review and/or renew any medications
  • Remind your teen of safety practices such as wearing a seatbelt, distracted driving or wearing a helmet

The best time to schedule your teen’s annual physical is in the spring before the next academic year begins. Schedule yours today for the future of your teen’s health.

Find out more information about Carilion Clinic’s Adolescent and Student Health Services or find a physician near you. Local area teens who attend William Fleming or Patrick Henry High School can get their physical without even leaving school grounds. Learn more about this service.

Brooks Michael is an adolescent health educator for Carilion Clinic’s Adolescent and Student Health Services. Learn more about Brooks and her work with teens.