New Tests You Can Expect at Your Kid's Next Checkup: Cholesterol, HIV & Depression

Parents who take their children for "annuals" at the pediatrician's office -- is this even a common thing anymore? -- might be shocked to learn that their family doctor is about to give the classic wellness visit a serious upgrade. Whether or not they are at risk for high cholesterol, children between the ages of 9 and 11 will receive cholesterol tests because doctors believe these can reduce the chance that they will suffer from heart disease later on in life, according to new guidelines published this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If high cholesterol levels are detected in young children, docs say they can use preventive measures, like making recommendations on how they can change their diets and incorporate more exercise into their lives, in an effort to stop a major problem before it starts. And cholesterol screenings aren't the only change you can expect.

The recent guidelines also recommend that all newborns have their blood oxygen levels tested before leaving the hospital, which is excellent news because only 17 states currently require this cheap and life-saving screening. This test allows doctors to detect whether a baby suffers from congenital heart defects that can be treated prior to mom and dad bringing him home.

The AAP has included a guideline that children ages 11 and older be screened for depression and substance abuse. This isn't exactly new, as many pediatricians focus on psychological and physical well-being, but doctors will now have what sounds like a generic list of questions to ask in order to determine if your child may be at risk for depression and drug or alcohol abuse.

Perhaps the most controversial change to come involves HIV screening. Initially, experts considered recommending HIV/AIDS tests to children as young as 13. Pediatricians are now saying they should be administered to teens between the ages of 16 and 18, but that kids 13 and older could be considered if they are at risk.

Some parents may be opposed to these tests for moral reasons or because they don't agree that children younger than 18 have the right to confidentially receive their HIV test results. One thing is for sure: the wellness visit has certainly evolved and will no longer consist of doctors simply measuring adolescents' weight and height measurements or giving them shots. Time will tell whether families feel these changes are for the better.

How do you feel about the new guidelines issues by the American Academy of Pediatrics?


Image via Mauro Cateb/Flickr

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Tracys2 Tracys2

I am a bit concerned about putting a 9 year old on statins, given what they did to my husband. But the test? I have no real issue. Also none with the blood oxygen or HIV test, though none of my kids is old enough to be sexually active (oldest is 8).  I'm not sure about the cost/benefit ratio of these tests, but have no moral objections to the tests in themselves.

The depression screening is an EXCELLENT idea. We have it in both our families, and I think kids would be more likely to be honest with a doctor than their parents. I think all doctors should be more alert to mental health issues, more than "you doing OK?" between "how many drinks do you have in a week?" and "do you smoke?"

the4m... the4mutts

I think it's a great idea. These tests don't put more chemicals into your child's bodies, and they can be used as guidelines to help your child be happier and healthier.

Example: if my 10yr old gets a cholesterol test later this year, and they say he could be at risk, we could change his diet and physical routine BEFORE it became an issue.

All my kids are lean and healthy, but what are a few little tests and questions going to hurt?

Kudos to any doctors that start incorporating these measures!

lulou lulou

I see the cholestorol test as a bit of a waste, because a healthy diet and exercise is something that can be done regardless.  The other thing I wondered, besides needing a physical for something such as sports or maybe a camp  (both of these maybe already drawing in active kids) do older kids typically even go in for physicals.    I get cheap insurance, so would probably skimp on it if it wasnt required.

Frost... FrostyMelted

Giving a 16 year old an HIV test is a great idea. If nothing else, hopefully, it will make them think, "Oh, yeah, I could get HIV from having sex," so that they protect themselves if they choose to be sexually active. 

Jespren Jespren

my only objection to any of this, provided both parent and child give informed consent to the tests, is with the new systems and problems with privacy and medical information being vulnerable, that's a very young age to have a 'lable' on you if some doctor decides you are 'at risk'. If the doctor recommended such tests for my 16 year old child I would approve or decline based upon specifics. If i had any reason to believe, for instance, that my 16 year old may be sexually active, than an HIV test would probably be, even with the security risks, advisable, but if there is no sexual activity then there is no cause for the test. If you think your kid is more likely to be honest with the doctor than with you, that's an internal family problem far bigger than anything the doctor might find during a question and answer period. I never had a doctor appointment without a parent in the room until after i was over 18 and, when my doctor refused to give my parents a test result the month after I turned 18 (still in high school and still in their house) my father was livid and I immediately added my parents to my records as 'able to discuss' any medical issues with them. A family which relies upon a once a year doctor appointment to spot 'problem' behavior with their teen has a serious problem.

Night... Nighttiger

How about we just give the diet guidelines to ALL kids? If it's just to recommend eating healthier and exercise, that is something all kids can benefit from. I don't need my kid going under additional tests when he's already athletic and we focus on whole organic foods. Just more hand holding.

IHear... IHeartCake

These tests are all a good idea.  I think depression screening should start at age 9 or 10, though, as even young children can have it. 

the4m... the4mutts

Nighttiger: My kids' doctor always talks about nutrition, at every visit, even though they are lean and healthy. But being lean and healthy doesn't always guarantee good cholesterol. A test just to check, isn't going to hurt anyone. And I would personally rather know sooner than later if my kids have ANY health concerns.

nonmember avatar phishmommy1981

This depends. My question is how do they give a 13 year old an HPV test. because there is NO WAY I'm allowing my daughter to have a pelvic exam that young. I think the psychological ramifications would far outweigh any benefits.

Jennifer Starr

It is recommended that girls at age 13 have their first gynecological exam. At least an external and an internal one if the doc thinks it's called for. If the girl is sexually active, and good lord do all of us parents hope and pray that they AREN'T at this age, a full exam should be done. My children are still small, my son still goes every three months and my daughter is in the annual stage. I will probably always take them for an annual physical, my husband and I do, my parents always took us for an annual medical physical, not just a sports physical. We also go to the eye doctor every year and the dentist every six months. It just makes sense to keep up on preventative before a problem becomes so bad that instead of paying a hundred for an office call you're paying thousands for something else. I don't know how I would feel about my teen having an AIDS test though, I guess it would depend on if they were sexually active or not. All the other stuff? Can't hurt and it may possibly help.

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