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Snapchat streaks to school stress, body image to bullies, peer pressure to part-time work – there’s a lot for teens to worry about! For some, it’s the absolute time of their lives; for others, it can be a bit of a struggle. Add in a healthy dose of hormones and parenting a teenager can be like trying to nail jelly to the wall.
With so many conflicting priorities at school and home, your teen’s health can take a backseat. But the truth is, the health foundation they build during this decade will influence the rest of their life. No pressure.
Speaking openly with your child about their health and wellbeing is crucial, but it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of health checks and simple tests that are designed to catch conditions at an early stage, even if your child isn’t experiencing any symptoms.
Your GP (general practitioner) should be the first port of call as to which health checks are a good idea for your child’s age and stage of life. But, as a general overview, here are a few health checks that are important for teenagers:
For teenage boys:
For teenage girls:
Your GP will want to regularly check your son or daughter’s blood pressure from the age of 18. That’s because you can have high blood pressure and not know it, and untreated high blood pressure can cause many other health concerns. It’s a simple check that only takes a couple of minutes.
A blood pressure test measures pressure in the arteries as a heart pumps. This test is conducted in a doctor’s surgery using a blood pressure machine and cuff.
At least every two years, starting from age 18.
A doctor or nurse.
Regular dental check ups, which are recommended throughout life, have wide-ranging benefits. That’s because conditions that affect your child’s teeth and mouth (such as gum disease and tooth decay) can affect their overall health as well as their smile.
This includes an examination of the mouth, teeth and lips. Dentists also usually clean the teeth and gums, and may offer a fluoride treatment.
At least once a year, but ideally every six months.
Dentists. GPs can also do oral health checks, where they examine the mouth, teeth and lips.
Throughout childhood, your doctor will want to check your child’s height and weight to ensure they’re growing appropriately for their age. Checks should continue throughout the teenage years to make sure your child is in a healthy weight range (not underweight or overweight).
A GP will measure weight in kilograms and height in metres to calculate an individual’s body mass index (BMI). Age-specific BMI charts are needed to work out whether teens are in their normal BMI range.
Every two years.
Adolescents – especially those with a personal or family history of mental health concerns, a chronic illness and/or those who’ve been through a major negative life event (such as being bullied) – are at increased risk of depression. Your doctor will want to ensure your teenager isn’t experiencing any mental health problems.
If your child is suffering with mental health issues, Head to Health provides links to trusted Australian resources and treatment options.
Your doctor will ask your teenager questions about their feelings and behaviours, including risk-taking behaviours such as smoking or drug and alcohol use. They will also ask about study, relationships, sexuality and body image.
There is no set timeframe – it should occur whenever required.
Living in Australia, chances are your teen will develop at least some degree of sun-related skin damage during their life. There are some big sun safety myths we need to stop believing, and while most of us don’t get skin cancers in our teenage years, it is possible. It’s important to make sure your teenager is aware of how their skin normally looks and to encourage them to see a doctor if they notice a new spot or change in a mole.
A skin check involves a doctor checking over the entire body for skin cancers or suspicious lesions.
There are no set intervals for most people. For people at high risk (anyone who’s had melanoma or who has more than five moles with an unusual appearance), a skin self-examination should be done every three months and a full body examination by your doctor every 6-12 months.
Your GP (general practitioner) or a dermatologist (skin specialist).
If your teenager is 15 years or older and sexually active, it’s recommended that they have a sexual health check to make sure they’re using appropriate protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.
During a risk assessment, a GP will ask your teenager questions about their sexual activity. A physical examination is not always necessary, but a sample of urine, a swab from their genitals and/or a blood test may be taken for testing in a laboratory.
It depends on their level of risk, which is based on their age and sexual practices.
A GP or health professional (doctor or nurse) at a Sexual Health or Family Planning Clinic.
Formal screening tests are not needed, but your teen should be aware of how their testicles normally feel. If they notice any lumps, changes or new symptoms, they should see a doctor.
Being familiar with the usual feel of your testicles.
It’s an ongoing self-assessment.
Your teen does.
Being breast aware means being familiar with the usual look and feel of your breasts. Teenage girls are likely to notice normal breast changes as they develop through puberty, but there are some changes that they should see a doctor about, such as lumps, nipple changes or nipple discharge.
Being familiar with the usual look and feel of your breasts.
It’s an ongoing self-assessment.
Your teen does.
At nib, we’re committed to keeping you and your loved ones at your healthiest, which is why we’ve put together a list of health tips for your teenager.
Everyone’s health cover needs are different. To help you understand what level of cover is best suited to your family, contact our cover experts today.
Please note: This is not an all-inclusive list; there may be other health checks that are recommended based on your teenager’s age and individual circumstances. The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you or your child has been given by a medical practitioner. Please make an appointment with your GP for advice on the health checks your teenager will need based on their personal circumstances.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk of many diseases, and so are often recommended to start health checks at an earlier age. It may also be recommended to have the tests or checks more often. Please see your GP for personalised advice for your teenager.
1 Payment by nib of dental benefits is subject to serving relevant waiting periods, annual limits and service limits. Check your cover by visiting Online Services or call 13 16 42. The dental check-up covers an examination (011, 012), scale and clean (114) or removal of plaque (111), fluoride treatment (121) and bite-wing or periapical x-rays (022, maximum of 2 per year), as deemed necessary and appropriate in the clinical opinion of the dentist (dentures not included). The services provided will be deducted from your annual limits and/or service limits. The 100% back offer is not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or government scheme, nor substitutable or redeemable for cash and is only available with dentists who have a preferred provider agreement with nib. ~nib Dental Care Centres are owned and operated by Pacific Smiles Group Limited ABN 42 103 087 449. The nib Dental Care Centre trademark is owned by nib health funds ABN 83 000 124 381 and is used under license by Pacific Smiles Group Limited.