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Medical Checkups for Adolescents

Topic Overview

During your adolescent's yearly medical checkup, most doctors:

  • Check your child's height and weight, body mass index, blood pressure, vision, and hearing.
  • Listen to your child's heart and lungs. Also, the doctor will feel the lymph nodes and the thyroid gland in the neck as well as the spleen, liver, and kidneys in the stomach area.
  • Inspect the genitals.
    • Your son's testicles will be checked to feel for any unusual lumps.
    • The doctor may recommend a pelvic exam for your daughter.
  • Check the breasts of both males and females.
  • Test joints and muscles for flexibility and strength.
  • Check the spine. If any irregularities are noticed, X-rays may be done to rule out conditions such as scoliosis.
  • Look at the skin for signs of acne, and check for abnormal moles.
  • Review and update immunizations.

Other tests, such as blood tests, may be done at your doctor's discretion.

A doctor often will discuss health and safety concerns with your child, such as:

  • Tips to add healthy foods and exercise into a daily routine.
  • Safe driving. Your doctor might remind your teen to always wear a seat belt, not use a cell phone while driving, and not "go along" in a car with someone who drives recklessly.
  • Using common sense with modern technology. Internet chat rooms, text messaging, and other kinds of modern technology offer young people ways to communicate quickly. They may also feel anonymous. But children need to understand the dangers of giving out information to people they don't know. They also need to be reminded to think twice before sending messages to others. Communication is so fast now that things they write and send off with a "click" can have effects that they did not intend. For example, sending off a mean text message can be very hurtful. It can even be a form of bullying.
  • Sun protection. The doctor might bring up basic facts about when to wear sunscreen and other ways to avoid sun damage.
  • Lifestyle issues, such as pregnancy, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and the risks of experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Most likely, this kind of information will not be new to your child. But it may "stick" more with some children when they hear it from an adult other than their parents. It usually is a good idea to give your adolescent time alone to discuss issues privately with the doctor. This gives your child an opportunity to address problems or concerns that may be difficult to share with you.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Irwin CE (2011). The adolescent visit. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 272–276. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised May 13, 2013

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