Adolescent / Teen Health

Adolescent Health

Moving through the teen years can be both wonderful and challenging for parents and teens alike. With so many changes taking place physically, socially and emotionally, Advanced Pediatrics pays special attention to teen needs to help make this transition to adulthood a healthy process.  Read more about Adolescent Health services at Advanced Pediatric Associates, as well as resources for parents and teens, on the page below:

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Pediatric Care During the Teen Years

Many families ask how long their children should see a pediatrician. Beginning at 17 or 18 years of age, we recommend that adolescents talk with their health care provider about the best time to transition to adult health care -- based on their individual health needs. Some young adults continue to be patients at Advanced Pediatrics until they reach 21 years of age or graduate from college.  

Since many of our adolescent patients have been with Advanced Pediatrics since birth or early childhood, they have had the opportunity to establish a comfortable and trusting relationship with our providers. Studies show that this relationship often makes it easier for teens to discuss sensitive concerns with the pediatric health care providers they know and trust, than with new "adult" health care providers. By continuing care with this established "medical home," our providers help guide our adolescent patients as they pass through this bridge to adulthood.

An annual well care exam at Advanced Pediatrics is important for ensuring continuity of care during these transitional years of adolescence and young adulthood.  When transitioning to adult health care, it is important to transfer all medical records from Advanced Pediatrics to the new adult health care provider.  

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Well Care Exams

With so many changes taking place during the teen years, annual well care exams are more important than ever. In addition to a complete physical examination, adolescent well care exams include measurements for Body Mass Index (BMI), vision / hearing screenings, and important adolescent immunizations. At least once between the ages of 17 - 21 a lipid screening (blood test) is done to check for elevated cholesterol levels.

Annual well care exams also give our providers the opportunity to discuss nutrition, family, social and school issues, safety, behavior and puberty. As part of all well care exams beginning at age 13, adolescents will be asked to complete the "RAAPS" risk assessment questionnaire, which helps identify any important concerns regarding adolescent health and safety. In order to foster honest communication, we assure teens that answers to this questionnaire will be confidential with their health care provider, and we request that parents respect this privacy promise. Learn more about "RAAPS" or view a blank copy of the "RAAPS" questionnaire in the links below:

As teens mature, it is important for them to begin to take some responsibility for their own health -- providing a "bridge" toward becoming an adult and handling health issues independently. Sometimes, adolescents have questions or concerns that they do not feel comfortable discussing in front of their parents. Consistent with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, we will ask parents to leave the room for a portion of each well care exam beginning at age 13, so that adolescents may freely discuss confidential health issues and ensure that important adolescent health concerns will not be overlooked due to a teen's concern for privacy.

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What's the Difference Between a Well-Care Exam and a Sports Physical?

Local high schools require athletes to provide proof of an annual physical exam in order to participate in high school sports. Unfortunately, families may not realize that a "sports physical" is not as comprehensive as a "well care exam". A sports physical is simply an exam that helps determine if it is safe for the athlete to participate in a particular sport. An annual well-care exam gives our providers a chance to perform a thorough physical exam and health assessment. It's also a good chance to address important adolescent issues such as drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual activity and anxiety / depression. Since your adolescent already needs an annual "well care exam," there is no need to schedule a separate "sports physical." Just be sure to schedule his or her annual "well care exam" at one of our offices a few weeks prior to the start of the season.

We strongly recommend against seeking sports physicals at retail based health clinics or urgent care facilities, as providers at these clinics have no access to your child's medical record or health history, and advertised "sports physicals" are not as comprehensive as a well-care exam by your child's primary care provider. Recent health care reform laws require most insurance plans to cover 100% of well care and immunizations for children. We recommend you check with your insurance company to be aware of coverage for your specific plan.

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Immunizations

Adolescent vaccines are key to preventing serious, sometimes life-threatening diseases. Because immunity from some childhood vaccines can decrease over time, adolescents need to get another dose of the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine during their pre-teen years. Also, as children move into adolescence, they are at greater risk of catching certain diseases, like meningitis and human papillomavirus (the leading cause of cervical cancer). Consistent with recommendations from the AAP and CDC, Advanced Pediatrics recommends the following immunizations for adolescents:

Annual Influenza Vaccine
Tdap/Adacel (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis Booster)
Meningococcal/Menactra (Menengitis)
Gardisil (HPV)
Catch-Up Vaccines (as needed)

For more information on adolescent immunizations, please visit AdolescentVaccination.org.

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Gynecological Services

The providers at Advanced Pediatrics feel it is important to offer gynecological health care to meet the needs of female teens as they pass through puberty and approach adulthood. Many adolescents have been patients at Advanced Pediatrics since birth or early childhood and have established a comfortable relationship with our providers. We feel that this relationship makes it easier for teenage girls to discuss gynecological concerns in our office than at a more "adult" gynecological practice. Our gynecological services include:

  • Diagnosis and treatment for painful or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Birth control and emergency contraception
  • Pregnancy testing
  • Testing, treatment and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases

An annual Pap test is recommended beginning at age 21.

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Additional Teen Services

Sometimes it's tough to be a teen. Whether your teen is facing a more common adolescent issue -- such as acne -- or something more complex -- such as anxiety or depression -- the providers at Advanced Pediatrics want to be there to provide quality health care and guidance. As such, we offer the following additional services for teens:

  • Acne evaluation and treatment
  • Evaluation, treatment and referral for eating disorders
  • Diagnosis, treatment and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases
  • ADHD evaluation and treatment
  • Evaluation, treatment and referral for anxiety and depression
  • Evaluation, treatment and referral for mental health concerns
  • Drug and alcohol testing and referral
  • We DO NOT prescribe medical marijuana

For more information on some of these services, see the ADHD and Emotional / Mental Health pages of this website.

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Advanced Pediatrics Philosophy: Sensitive Adolescent Issues

During this important period of transition between childhood and adulthood, the providers at Advanced Pediatrics recognize the concerns of both teens and their parents regarding sensitive health issues, and follow recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and requirements of state and local laws in providing health care for adolescents. Our philosophy in dealing with sensitive adolescent health issues centers around the following principles.

Education
The providers at Advanced Pediatrics strongly value the importance of providing education for both adolescents and their parents regarding sensitive health and safety concerns. We believe that by educating teens and parents regarding the risks of substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and other adolescent health concerns, we can open the door for communication and help teens make safer and healthier choices as they grow and mature. Our providers strive to provide helpful educational materials and discussion during well care visits, and encourage teens and parents to visit our website or call our Nurse Line whenever they have questions regarding adolescent issues.

Privacy
The providers at Advanced Pediatrics strongly encourage ongoing communication between teens and parents. We respect the special relationship between teens and their parents and encourage teens to be open and honest with their parents regarding health, emotional, sexual and social issues. As health professionals, however, we are bound by state and federal laws governing a teen's right to confidentiality regarding sexuality, substance abuse and mental health issues (see below for details). While we encourage teens to discuss concerns with their parents, there are certain situations where a teen can legally decide to protect his or her privacy.

Sexuality
The providers at Advanced Pediatrics strongly support the practice of abstinence as the best way to promote healthy adolescent physical and emotional growth, as well as prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. However, we live in a world where many adolescents are making adult choices at an earlier age than in generations past. Our goal is to provide education and guidance when possible, while providing access to quality health care for our adolescent patients.

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State and Federal Laws Regarding Confidentiality

According to Colorado state law, a person is deemed to be "of full age" once he or she has attained the age of eighteen years (CRS 13-22-101). Every competent person eighteen years and older may "make decisions in regard to his or her own body." Before the age of eighteen, a minor is generally presumed to be incompetent to make his or her own medical decisions without parental consent (CRS 13-122-103). However, there are a few exceptions. Minors can consent to medical care for themselves without parental consent in the following instances:

  • If the minor is financially independent and living separate and apart from his or her parents
  • If the minor is legally married
  • If the minor requests birth control or family planning services
  • If the minor requests testing and treatment for sexually transmitted disease
  • If the minor requests testing and treatment for drug addiction
  • If the minor requests treatment for certain mental health issues

Federal HIPAA regulations are clear that if a minor has requested confidential treatment in one of the above instances, the minor is the owner of that portion of the medical record. That portion of the medical record can only be released or shared with the permission of the minor. Advanced Pediatrics complies with state laws and federal HIPAA regulations regarding confidentiality and privacy rights of adolescents. The rights, well-being, safety and best medical interests of the adolescent patient will be the primary factors in determining confidentiality of patient information.

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Teen Health Articles

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Helpful Websites

General Adolescent Health & Wellness

Topics in Adolescent Health

Recommended Reading

For Teens
For Parents
Graduating High School and Beyond

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