The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now urging doctors to screen children for cholesterol, HIV and depression, after having revised its previous guidelines.
The advisory report has been issued on Monday, December 7 and it proposes that kids should be tested for a wider array of medical conditions, so as to ensure early detection and more effective treatment.
More precisely, those aged 9 to 11 should take blood tests in order to determine their lipidic profile. As pediatricians explain, the buildup of fatty deposits throughout the arteries, can begin even at an early age.
In fact around a fifth of all adolescents go through this process known as atherosclerosis, which causes arteries to become more narrow, as walls thicken and harden.
This has been linked to a series of health hazards such as strokes and heart attacks, which both fall into the category of cardiovascular disease.
As emphasized by Dr. Geoffrey Simon, a pediatrician affiliated with Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, in Wilmington, Delaware, high cholesterol can occur even in the absence of obesity, sometimes as a result of genetic predispositions.
The condition must be detected as soon as possible, so as to combated it through lifestyle changes (healthier diets and physical exercise). When cholesterol is excessively high, statins should be prescribed for children, but only if there is no other alternative in sight.
This type of screening could actually be beneficial for other family members as well, because once a kid is diagnosed with abnormally elevated cholesterol it’s likely that at least one of the parents also shares this ailment, notes Dr. Stephen Daniels, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado.
In addition, there should also be annual mental health screenings, for people aged 11 to 21, so as to determine if the individual suffers from depression.
The prevalence of this disorder tends to soar as high school years approach, around 1 in 10 of all American children aged between 12 and 17 having experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2013.
As the Centers for Disease control and Prevention reports, suicide is the second most frequently encountered cause of death among those aged 15 to 24, resulting in around 4,600 fatalities on a yearly basis.
Depression is one of the main triggers for those who attempt to take their own lives, and just half of those who suffer from this disorder benefit from medication and therapy, which would allow up to 90% of the patients to make a full recovery.
Another essential recommendation included in the report is that Americans aged 16 to 18 should be screened for HIV, especially if they belong to communities where the virus affects more than 0.1% of the population.
As the report authors point out, around a quarter of all HIV infections that are newly diagnosed occur among those aged 13 to 24, and approximately 3 in 5 of the teenagers who have contracted the virus aren’t even aware of this fact.
Sexual activity is relatively common among U.S. adolescents, but few of them take into account the importance of protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, early detection of HIV and other STDs may not be a topic of interest for teenagers, but it should become one, pediatricians insist.
There are also other guidelines specified in the document released by the AAP. For instance, toddlers should be tested for iron-deficiency anemia, through routine blood tests taken at 15 and 30 months.
Also, newborns should be monitored through pulse oximetry, so as to detect congenital heart defects which require immediate treatment, before being discharged from hospital.
Moreover, teenagers should be surveyed by their physicians using the CRAFT questionnaire, which investigates drug and alcohol use, by identifying instances of this kind (while driving, relaxing or being by oneself) and potential consequences (blackouts, juvenile delinquency etc.)
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