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Why is scheduling an annual checkup for your teen important? While the reasons are many, a national online survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and Pfizer, found that teens aged 13 through 17 years are twice as likely to ask about important health topics during an annual checkup rather than at a sick visit.  

With teens and parents leading lives that are busier than ever, it may seem hard to find the time to schedule an annual checkup – but don’t forget that it’s one way to help your teen live a healthier life. Here are seven important reasons to schedule one today.

1. Immunizations

doctor giving shot to patientFour vaccines are routinely recommended for adolescents: human papillomavirus (HPV), meningococcal, a booster dose of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) and the annual flu shot. Some states may require students entering colleges or universities be vaccinated against certain diseases, so it may be helpful to plan an annual checkup prior to the start of the school year to find out which vaccines your teen may be missing. You and your teen can visit www.VPD411.com to learn more about vaccine-preventable diseases.

2. Skin care

teens lying on sand in water at beach
Although more than half of a person’s lifetime UV exposure typically occurs during childhood and adolescence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that less than a third of American youths practice effective sun protection. One or more sunburns in childhood or adolescence can increase the risk of certain types of skin cancer as an adult. During an annual checkup, your teen’s doctor can check irregular shaped moles, sun spots and other areas of concern, as well as discuss ways to protect their skin from the sun.

3. Height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)

closeup of person standing on scale
Nearly a third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight. Knowing your teen’s height and weight may not be enough. Body mass index or BMI - which is calculated using height, weight, age and gender - can be an important indicator of your teen’s current and future health. A doctor can help you and your teen understand what a healthy BMI is and address questions about making healthy lifestyle choices.

4. Sexual health

couple at prom taking a selfie
Adolescents and young adults account for nearly half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases diagnosed each year, according to the CDC. In addition to the talks you may have with your teen, a doctor can offer guidance on responsible sexual behaviors and discuss the physical and emotional changes that your teen may experience during puberty as part of an annual checkup.

5. Diabetes

teen girl holding food thinking about food choices
As rates of obesity rise, type 2 diabetes, a disease that used to be seen primarily in adults, is becoming more common in young people. While approximately 215,000 persons younger than 20 have diabetes, there are more than 25 million American adults over the age of 20 with the disease. If poor eating habits, weight management and lack of exercise are not addressed during adolescence, diabetes rates may continue to climb. An annual checkup can help you and your teen proactively identify any risk factors to help prevent diabetes or resulting complications in adulthood.

6. Sleep

teen boy at school asleep on pile of books
Adequate sleep is important to healthy brain function and physical health. Teens need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact not only on your teen’s academic performance, but on their overall health. An annual checkup gives you and your teen a chance to discuss positive sleep habits with their doctor.

7. Mental and emotional health

teen girl feeling overwhelmed
Like adults, teens may sometimes feel overscheduled and overwhelmed, which can affect their mental and emotional health. According to Healthy People 2020, one in five children in the United States has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. A doctor can discuss signs, symptoms and ways to manage mental and emotional distress with you and your teen during their annual checkup.

Bottom Line: Remember, it’s important to select a doctor your teen trusts so they feel comfortable discussing any health concerns during their annual checkup. For more information on choosing an effective healthcare provider for your teen and getting the most from an annual visit, go to www.MyTeensHealth.com.