3 Screenings Your Child May Be Missing

3 Screenings Your Child May Be Missing

Learn about the manageable health conditions that often go undiagnosed among children.

It sounds like great news: 93.6 percent of children and teens had contact with a healthcare professional in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

But what happened during that appointment? Did it last 10 minutes and did the doc say, “Yup! Your kid has an ear infection, here’s a prescription,” or “Here’s your Tdap booster.” If so, that’s unfortunate because there are several important screening tests that a child or teen may need to help them learn, laugh and thrive.

In-depth allergy testing
For young children with a skin allergy—between 10 and 20 percent have eczema—it’s common to acquire additional allergies during their first five years. Docs call this the Allergic March. It often starts with a skin allergy and then is followed by an anaphylactic food allergy and a respiratory allergy.

A 2018 study of 130,000 kids published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children with those three allergies are three times more likely to develop a painful inflammation of the esophagus called eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). It’s not an anaphylactic food allergy, but the condition can cause pain when swallowing, a stomachache or even problems with food becoming lodged in the esophagus. Researchers noted that EoE often goes undiagnosed well into the teens. 

If you have a child who struggles with multiple allergies and has symptoms related to swallowing, indigestion or stomachaches, ask your allergist to test for EoE. An elimination diet may help identify the offending food, and treatment can include steroids to reduce esophageal inflammation.

Obesity screening 
Children age 6 and older should be screened for obesity so they can start treatment, including nutritional and activity recommendations. This is vital because childhood obesity affects 18.5 percent of U.S. kids and teens and can lead to premature diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, asthma, depression, orthopedic problems and many more health troubles.

That may include cancer. In 2019 an alarming study published in Lancet Public Health found the incidence of six obesity-related cancers—colorectal, endometrial, pancreatic, gallbladder, kidney and multiple myeloma—increased in young adults between 1995 and 2014 as more children grew up obese. Millennials had about double the risk of those cancers compared to baby boomers at the same age.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t see their child’s obesity: One survey found 81 percent of parents of obese or overweight kids thought they were a healthy weight.

Sometimes, there may be metabolic problems occurring, like hypothyroidism. Whatever the case may be, parents need to be open to asking the doctor: “Can you tell me if my child is overweight or obese?” or “What can you recommend that will help my child maintain a healthy weight?” ‘Cause, Mom and Dad, it’s almost always treatable.

Mental health/depression screening 
From 2013 to 2014, about 11 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 reported having at least one major depressive episode in the previous 12 months, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. And among kids ages 8 to 15 years old, 2 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls report a major depressive episode. Based on the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, 7.4 percent of young people in grades 9 through 12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the previous 12 months.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all kids age 12 and older be screened for depression. For younger children, screenings should be performed on a case-by-case basis.

It’s estimated that only 36 percent of children and 44 percent of adolescents with depression receive treatment. That’s because it can be hard to tell moodiness from more serious emotional problems. So, ask your child’s doc to evaluate your child’s risk for depression and, if needed, recommend a therapist. One study found the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication produced a positive response in 71 percent of teens.

You want to give your kids the best chance to overcome health challenges. Talk to your doctor about what will extend their umbrella of care.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

10 Lifestyle Steps to Protect Your Heart, Brain and Body
10 Lifestyle Steps to Protect Your Heart, Brain and Body
When it comes to staying healthy or reclaiming your health, we always advocate getting 10,000 steps a day and eating seven to nine serving of fruits a...
Read More
What is the science behind the RealAge Test?
The scientifically based scoring behind the RealAge test -- which assesses your body's physical age,...
More Answers
9 Ways to Wake Up Happy (Without Coffee)
9 Ways to Wake Up Happy (Without Coffee)9 Ways to Wake Up Happy (Without Coffee)9 Ways to Wake Up Happy (Without Coffee)9 Ways to Wake Up Happy (Without Coffee)
Boost your morning mood with these easy, expert-approved tips.
Start Slideshow
What Are Some Benefits of Detoxification?
What Are Some Benefits of Detoxification?