Long Branch, N.J.-- Most parents understand the importance of well-baby and toddler checkups to ensure their child’s health and to update immunizations. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), checkups and vaccines should not stop at the kindergarten year.
Immunizations, vaccine boosters and ongoing health issues make checkups a necessity, according to the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both organizations urge parents to schedule a well-child visit for their 11- or 12-year-olds.
“All children and adolescents also need regular checkups to monitor how they are growing and developing,” says Brian Truxal, M.D., FAAP, Director, Adolescent Medical Clinic at The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center. “Parents and preteens should not be afraid to ask questions about sensitive issue. The many changes of puberty can sometimes be particularly worrisome to preteens.”
Giving Vaccines a Boost
A visit to the pediatrician as a preteen is important because it presents the opportunity to give boosters for old vaccines and to immunize against diseases with new ones. Immunity to some infectious diseases, such as tetanus and whooping cough, begins to fade in the preteen years, so boosters are essential.
“The preteen checkup is an important time to make sure children are caught up on childhood immunizations such as chickenpox, hepatitis B, polio and measles-mumps-rubella,” says Renuka Verma, M.D., Section Chief, Pediatric Infectious Disease, at The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center. “The influenza vaccine is also essential during the winter months for all kids with asthma, diabetes or underlying kidney diseases.”
In addition, as they approach adolescence, children are more vulnerable to other serious diseases at school, camp, and in other social situations. One particularly dangerous threat is meningococcal meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord that can lead to disability or even death. The MCV4 vaccine, which helps prevent meningitis, was introduced in 2005, and is recommended for all children ages 11 through 18.
Two other relatively new vaccines that are now routinely recommended by the CDC and the AAP are Tdap (a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or -- "whooping cough" -- booster) and the HPV(cervical cancer-preventing human papillomavirus -- papillomavirus vaccine) for girls, which became available last year.
Obesity and General Health
The skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity is putting America's children at risk for serious health problems. Without proper intervention, overweight children are at risk for early development of health problems such as diabetes, hormonal imbalances, heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems, sleep problems, joint problems, as well as social and psychological difficulties.
The preteen years are years of rapid growth. Checking in with the pediatrician will give children and parents a chance to talk about appropriate weight, nutrition and exercise, and could prevent a child from becoming overweight.
The AAP also notes that a preteen checkup is a good time for the doctor to build a rapport with the child so that he or she will comfortable discussing future health issues that might be more challenging to discuss.
Adolescent Programs at The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
The Children’s Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics offers many health services for the adolescent patient, ages 11 through 18. Patients who need admission to the hospital for medical or surgical problems are cared for on the pediatric inpatient unit and in the pediatric intensive care unit. Those in need of inpatient psychiatric services are cared for in the pediatric and adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit. There are many outpatient programs for the care of children with a wide variety of health problems. The pediatric emergency room treats adolescents with acute medical and surgical problems.
For more information, please call (732) 222-5200
CONTACT: Beth Salamon
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