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Teen health: This month, schedule a checkup and clearance for sports

Those “Back to School” sale signs are not the only thing telling us that the school season is on its way back.

For teenagers, this is a great time of year to schedule a health maintenance visit, according to Kristen Dillon, MD. Important things happen at these medical appointments, also known as “checkups,” she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a visit every year through age 18. The Oregon School Athletics Association requires clearance for sports at least every two years. Clinics in our region recommend that their teen patients schedule a checkup every 1 to 2 years. But this has not been happening nearly that often for many young people.

As Dillon wrote in the August message from Healthy Hood River Coalition (HAHRC), a health maintenance visit is a time to see if you’re healthy and try to find things that might get in the way of good health in your future.

There’s a time to talk about choices related to food, physical activity, alcohol and other drugs, sexual activity, sleep, and many other factors that can impact health, according to Dillon, a family physician at Columbia Gorge Family Medicine in Hood River. For teenagers, even if you choose to have a parent with you for the visit, most providers will also want to meet with you privately for part of the time.

The visit will include a physical exam as well as a check of your vision, hearing, or similar tests if they are needed.

There are several vaccinations that you should get starting around the age of 12. These include immunization against human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer and genital warts, meningococcus which causes severe brain and blood infections, and Tdap, a booster shot that improves your immunity to tetanus and whooping cough. For more information, the non-profit Immunization Action Coalition has a link for teens at www.vaccineinformation.org.

Across the community, primary care providers have agreed to ask teens to schedule checkups as part of being cleared to participate in sports. Clinics will not be offered anymore because they found patients were getting cleared for sports but missing their teen vaccines, recommended tests, and the private time to talk with their health care provider about concerns.

Now is a good time to call to schedule. For fall sports, athletes will be excluded from practice after Aug. 18 if they don’t have a current (within 2 years) sports physical form on file.

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