How Often Should Preteens/Teens Get a Physical Exam?

By Candice Coleman
A yearly physical exam can help doctors build your child's medical history.
A yearly physical exam can help doctors build your child's medical history.

Your teenager might feel energetic and healthy, but a physical exam can detect problems that neither of you are aware of. Exams can also detect potential warning signs for future health problems. Though regular preventive care is important, many parents wonder how often a physical exam is necessary.

Physical Exam Schedule for Preteens And Teens

Preteens and teenagers should have a visit to the doctor at least every year for a physical exam, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. During a physical exam, a doctor will typically check a child's nose, ears, throat, eyes, legs and arms to see whether development is normal, according to Boston Children's Hospital. A doctor can also check your child's genitals and breasts during a physical exam, according to WebMD. This time provides the opportunity for your child to discuss any concerns he might have about his health, such as discussing safe sex practices, according to KidsHealth.

Physicals for Athletes

When preteens and teenagers wish to play a sport, they might be referred to the doctor for a sports physical, according to KidsHealth. These exams might be necessary whenever your child begins a new sport, or they might occur again during the sports season. A doctor can check a child's height, weight, blood pressure and lungs, and your child's strength and flexibility. However, a sports physical should not replace your child's yearly physical exam, which tends to be more thorough.

Preparing and Going Through the Visit

Physical exams can be uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing for teenagers and preteens. Planning before you visit can help you and your teen make the most of your time with the doctor, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Writing down questions or symptoms your child might be curious about can help you remember to get an answer while you are in the office. Preteens and parents can also ask the doctor to explain what he is doing, and his reasoning for doing it, throughout the exam to relieve anxiety.

Additional Information

While a physical exam is important for picking up on health problems, a doctor might not know about certain risks or conditions unless your preteen mentions it. Problems with anxiety or depression might not be obvious to the doctor during the duration of a visit. Parents and teens might want to take notes during a physical exam or ask for resources, websites or pamphlets related to a physical exam, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents might also want to step up and ask questions on behalf of their child, who might be too embarrassed to mention certain symptoms or concerns.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.