3 New Health Checks Your Child Needs

Doctor’s visits aren’t just for sick kids. Checkups help your child’s doctor catch hidden health problems early. And the nation’s leading child health organization just updated its checklist for these visits.

The 2014 guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise three new screenings. Plus, they suggest one to skip. Consult this guide before your child’s next appointment.

1. Cholesterol

In the past, only kids with a family history of heart problems got routine cholesterol tests. Under the new guidelines, all kids ages 9 to 11 will have a blood test measuring their levels.

Without help, kids may not outgrow high cholesterol, and it could lead to hardening of the arteries. About 7 percent of children ages 10 to 15 already show early signs of atherosclerosis. Often, diet changes and exercise can steer them back on the right path.

2. Depression

At any given moment, about 5 percent of children and teens are suffering from depression. When your child is between ages 11 and 21, the doctor will ask questions at each visit to assess your child’s risk. Early treatment with medication and counseling can help lift your child’s mood.

3. Heart Defects

Most babies are born with healthy hearts. But about 18 of every 10,000 newborns arrive with heart defects. Many have no symptoms within the first hours or days.

If doctors catch these problems early, surgery can usually repair them. Following the AAP’s guidance, newborns will now undergo screening for heart defects before leaving the hospital. A doctor or nurse will check to see how much oxygen is in the baby’s blood — a sign of how well the heart is working.

One More Change

The AAP no longer recommends testing healthy girls and women ages 21 and younger for cervical cancer with a Pap test. Girls and women at a younger age are often able to clear the HPV infection that may lead to cervical cancer. In some very high-risk situations, such as HIV infection, Pap tests are done earlier than age 21.

Always check with your child’s pediatrician about which tests and checks are right for your child. Based on medical and family history, the doctor may set a different schedule to safeguard your child’s good health.

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