Adolescence is the period of physical, psychological and social maturation from childhood to an adult. The term adolescent refers to individuals between the age of 10-19 years which make up about 1/5th of Indian population. Adolescents complete their physical, psychological and emotional journey to adulthood in a world that contains both opportunities and dangers. Adolescents are at risk of early and unwanted pregnancy because of poor understanding of their sexuality and sometimes the only information sources available to them are media and peers. They are not aware of contraceptive measures and teenage pregnancy results in increased morbidity and mortality .They are also at increased risk of STDs including HIV and Hep B,C because of unprotected sexual practices .So, awareness about STDs is essential as it can later on cause pelvic inflammatory disease(PID) and infertility in girls.
Education is key:
Sex education should be given in the beginning of adolescent period including knowledge of contraceptives to avoid teenage pregnancies. Both boys and girls should be counselled about perinea and genital hygiene.
Girls should be given information about menstrual hygiene and any menstrual disorder including heavy flow or pain during menstruation should be treated .
Body of the teenager is still growing so, nutritional health is important during adolescent period to prevent future health problems like anaemia ,osteoporosis.
Balanced diet containing adequate amount of milk and leafy vegetables should be given to the teenagers to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Adolescents should be encouraged to indulge in outdoor sports and exercise and to avoid junk food to avoid obesity as it leads to medical problems like hypertension, cardiac disease in adulthood.
Exercise and physical activity increase self esteem and confidence and also decrease anxiety and stress.
Lots of emotional changes occur during this period like mood changes (irresponsibility and stubbornness), attraction to opposite sex and search for identity etc.
Parents and teachers should understand these ongoing changes and should help them overcome this period of crisis.
Understand & guide adolescents:
Adolescents are at risk for smoking, alcohol intake and drug abuse. They should be taught about their ill effects and that they should refrain from using them. Smoking can cause cancers, infertility, hypertension, heart disease and premature death. So, drugs are like poisons for everyone. Vaccination of teenage girls against Rubella, cancer cervix (Gardasil, Cervarix) is advised .Hepatitis B, Chicken pox vaccination should be offered to both boys and girls. Adolescents have significant needs for health services. Adequate care and support should be given to them so that they enter into their adulthood in good mental and physical health.