Health Tests Every Kid Needs

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 3, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 3, 2014

Children’s Health Tests

Your child will undergo medical tests from the moment they are born. Most of these tests are simply to determine their general health and development. Others are conducted when an illness or problem is suspected. While their doctor will generally keep you informed about what tests and shots are needed, it’s always good to inform yourself as well. Here are some of the most common tests and treatments.

Childhood (Newborn to 12 years)

Vaccinations

Despite claims that vaccinations are potentially dangerous to children’s health, doctors who specialize in preventive health recommend a full course of vaccines for children starting at one month of age. Unless they are in a high-risk category and need to have their vaccines postponed.

It’s necessary to weigh the risks and benefits yourself to make an informed decision. Vaccines are surrounded by controversy. Some people adamantly refuse vaccines and others make their child’s appointments like clockwork,

For children under 12, these vaccinations include:

  • hepatitis A and B
  • varicella
  • polio
  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis).

Doctors also recommend an annual flu vaccine for all children. After age 12, a tetanus booster every 10 years is standard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that all children be immunized for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection.

Eye Exam

Your child should have their first vision screening before age 5, even if you haven’t noticed any eye problems. Your doctor will usually do basic eye tests at yearly physicals. If there is a problem, an early eye exam will ensure you catch it before it becomes serious.

Teeth Cleaning

When your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time to rejoice. It’s also time to see a dentist. Early examinations will help protect your child’s teeth and set up a lifetime of good dental health. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children have their first dental appointment within six months of getting their first tooth and no later than their first birthday. Follow the first trip with semiannual visits for teeth cleaning and exams.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Check

High cholesterol and high blood pressure aren’t adult-only diseases. Children and babies can have these health conditions too. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all children between the ages of 9 and 11 be screened for high cholesterol. Your pediatrician will also likely begin annual blood pressure tests around age 3.

Weight and Height Measurement

Your child’s body mass index (BMI) may be the best way to track his or her overall growth and development. BMI is calculated by multiplying weight (in pounds) by 703, and then dividing by height (in inches) squared. Your child’s doctor will monitor their growth at each appointment, whether they are there for a physical or for illness.

Adolescence (13 to 18 years)

Annual Physical

Kids in this age range should get a yearly checkup or physical. This gives your child’s doctor ongoing view of your child’s health and enables the doctor to notice any dramatic changes. This appointment also affords your child the chance to talk to a health professional about his or her changing body.

Emotional Screening

Teenagers and adolescents are at temperamental stages in their lives. As their hormones change, there’s no escaping that. There’s also no escaping the fact that many of them no longer confide in their parents about problems. Many doctors provide an emotional screening during the annual physical. If you are concerned about your teen’s mood or demeanor or notice signs of an eating disorder, make an appointment to talk with someone.

Scoliosis Screening

Many middle and high schools provide annual scoliosis screenings to check students for abnormal curvatures of the spine. This is a simple test where the doctor feels your spine through your clothing. It’s important that young people have this screening. Scoliosis usually first appears during or following the prepuberty growth spurt.

Gynecological Visit

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends each young woman have her first gynecological visit between the ages of 13 and 15, regardless of sexual activity. This doesn’t mean she will have her first pelvic exam or Pap smear. Instead, the first visit lays the groundwork for future visits and provides an opportunity for the doctor to discuss periods, cramps, sex, and birth control needs.

Other tests, treatments, and screenings may arise as your child grows and experiences possible illness or risks. These, however, represent the most common. 

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