Is it time for a checkup? What to know about adolescent medicine

School is back in session, and you logically want a happy and healthy school year for your teen. One way to get the year started on the right foot? A checkup.

But not just any checkup. A checkup with an adolescent health specialist.

OK, so maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “What exactly is adolescent health?” No worries! That’s why we’ve put together this blog — to talk through the benefits of adolescent medicine.

Read on as we take a look.

What is adolescent medicine?

The simple answer? “Adolescent medicine” encompasses care for the physical, mental, behavioral and emotional health needs of children between the ages of 11 and 21.

Children aren’t just miniature adults — and adolescents aren’t just older kids. Every stage of life offers unique challenges and has distinct health-related needs.

“Adolescents are in a unique time during their life,” says John Heise, MD, Director of Adolescent Medicine with Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. “They aren’t young children — and yet they’re not adults either.

“Their bodies are going through tremendous and, at times, confusing changes, but so are their ways of thinking, viewpoints and life experiences. They are maturing past their need for constant supervision with their immediate family, but not yet ready for full independence. Their peer group becomes very important.”

That’s where an adolescent medicine specialist can help. With specialized expertise in the unique needs of teens, these professionals are prepared to help ensure they develop appropriately in every way.

What does adolescent medicine include?

Adolescent medicine specialists provide care for teens, including their medical, pubertal, nutritional and psychological care.

An adolescent health specialist can provide care related to:

  • Chronic health conditions
  • Dermatological conditions, like severe acne
  • Eating disorders
  • Sports medicine
  • Pubertal disorders
  • Attention deficit disorders
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Behavioral issues

“[The services our patients need] run the gamut from sports injuries and acne care to physicals and immunization,” Dr. Heise says. “Pubertal and gynecologic issues are very common, as are mental health issues, school or learning difficulties, and addressing high-risk behaviors or thoughts.”

How does adolescent medicine benefit parents?

Raising a teen is hard. Adolescent medicine specialists provide another layer of support for parents who are uncertain about how their child is growing and developing.

How much support a doctor provides will vary from parent to parent.

“It depends on the parents and their expanded family,” Dr. Heise says. “It helps if the parents have older children who have gone through adolescence already.

“Some parents have a lot of questions and need support and guidance, and some don’t feel the need at all for this help. Luckily, we can help parents in whatever way they desire and need.”  

Why checkups are important

Has your teen had an annual physical yet? You may wonder why these regular checkups are so important.

An annual exam allows your child’s doctor to gauge your child’s growth and development, check for any health conditions or manage chronic health conditions, and suggest age-appropriate testing or immunizations. During this checkup, parents also have an opportunity to address any questions or concerns they may have.

At a certain age, teens may feel more comfortable talking with a doctor without a parent in the room. That’s natural and normal.

After all, most adults consider their health care private — and teens are beginning to make their way into adulthood. When it comes to complex issues like sexual health, they may not want to share any questions or concerns  when their parents are around.

Beyond an annual physical, an adolescent medicine specialist can also take care of any sports physicals needed to get your teen on the field or court for the season. During a sports physical, the doctor will conduct an exam designed to determine whether your teen is safe to participate in a sports activity.

Even if a sports physical is not required for participation in sports, they’re still recommended, since they can help spot any potential issues before an activity begins.

Dr. John Heise specializes in Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger. Need to get your teen up-to-date with an annual checkup or a sports physical? Schedule one with Dr. Heise today by calling 423-778-6107!