Regular physical examinations are important for children. Many physical, emotional and developmental changes take place during the preteen and teen years, with puberty being the most noticeable. Some diseases or medical conditions are more likely to appear during this time. Scoliosis, for example, is more likely to appear during growth spurts, according to PubMed Health. Physical exams -- also called well-child checks -- can help identify problems early so they can be treated or managed.
A physical exam or well-child visit is an opportunity for your healthcare provider to measure your child’s progress on multiple levels. Physical growth is certainly one important aspect. If your child is significantly over- or under-weight, the well-child visit provides an opportunity to discuss eating habits and nutrition. The doctor should also evaluate your child’s social skills and behavior to identify any potential problems. The child should be weighed, have her height measured and her vital signs, such as pulse and blood pressure, recorded.
The well-child check includes other aspects of developmental health in addition to the physical exam. Vision screening will identify any problems that mean your child needs classes or a prescription adjustment if she already wears glasses. A hearing test can identify hearing problems that may affect her ability to learn. Teenage girls who have started their periods may become anemic; a simple blood test can indicate whether she needs to eat more iron-rich foods.
In addition to regular physical exams, adolescents who play sports may also be required to have a pre-participation physical examination, or PPE, which is also called a sports physical. Even if your state doesn’t require a PPE, they’re a good idea, according to child development experts at the Kids Health website. The primary focus of a PPE is to determine whether a child is able to participate in one or more sports. A sports physical, however, is different from a regular well-child check, because the focus is more limited. Preteens and teens should still have a full physical once a year; your doctor may be able to combine both exams at one visit.
Many physicians consider well-child exams so important that they send reminder cards or call parents to schedule these exams on a regular basis. In addition to the physical exam, a well-child check is an opportunity for parent to ask questions about their child’s health and development and for adolescents to discuss their own concerns with the doctor in private. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all preteens and teens have a well-child check -- including a physical exam -- a minimum of once a year.
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