BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The next time your child is due for a checkup, there could be some new screenings and questions. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines on what pediatricians should be looking for and at what age.
"It's just an increased awareness about the need to be on the lookout for potentially life long and life threatening diseases," said pediatrician Dr. Stephen Sanches who explained that the guidelines are regularly updated.
Among the biggest changes are screening for depression starting at age 11, screening at risk patients for cholesterol at ages 9 to 11, and HIV screening starting at age 16.
"As the teen matures, as relationships mature, as their activities expand they are more likely to put themselves at risk for acquiring HIV and other diseases," said pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. Karen Williams.
Baton Rouge has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the country. Williams says the area's youth are especially at risk for HIV and AIDs. In fact, one in four new HIV cases occurs in a person 13 to 24 years old.
Williams says that the AAP first recommended HIV screening for teens back in 2011, however this is the first time it has been included in the periodicity schedule. She believes this move will raise more awareness about the disease.
"It initiates that conversation about HIV and the possible risks," said Williams.
Sanches agrees, and says the new guidelines reflect growing health problems, like obesity, among our youth.
"The guidelines are there to represent an opportunity to catch disease. It doesn't mean that we are implying that your children are going to have high cholesterol or going to have HIV or that your children are going to be depressed, but we know that all of those things are on the rise in that," said Sanches.
Other changes include inquiring about access to drugs and alcohol, and screening newborns for congenital heart conditions using a pulse oximetry test.
Sanches says it is important to discuss any concerns about your child's health or the new guidelines with your doctor.
More information can be found here.