The “wonder years” of boys and teens
The Raging Hormones would be a good name for a sports team or rock band made up of teenage boys.
Adolescence is when boys’ hormones shift into overdrive, triggering incredible spurts of growth, causing hair to grow in places it didn’t grow before, and lowering voices an octave or two.
Around age 13—sometimes younger, sometimes older—boys begin the physical transition from childhood to adulthood. They experience sexual awakening, muscular development and acne. They eat ravenously and, at some point, start shaving.
“Parents often ask when all this
starts because they want to know
when it will happen to their son,” says
Christoph Diasio, M.D., of Sandhills
Pediatrics in Southern Pines. “It’s really
variable. The best answer is to ask
when Dad started shaving. Was he
ahead of the other kids, a little later or
in the middle of the pack?”
The late childhood and teenage
years are generally pretty healthy
times for both boys and girls. But it is
when some of them make choices that
seriously jeopardize their immediate
safety or long-term health. They start
smoking, drinking or using drugs. They
have unprotected sex. They ride in
cars with friends who have just gotten
their licenses, and when they are old
enough, they get behind the wheel
Young drivers are inexperienced and
sometimes reckless, and some of them
seem to think it’s a sign of weakness to
buckle their seat belts. It’s little wonder
that highway accidents are by far the
leading cause of death among teenagers.
Dr. Diasio says the biggest threat to
their future health is smoking.
“The tobacco companies are out
there to take advantage of 11-, 12-, 13-
year-olds,” he says. “We need to help
them understand that one of the best
things they can do for themselves is not
to fall for that, not to start smoking.
“I understand that kids need to create
their own identity and set themselves
apart from their parents. But I
tell them to pick music that’s obnoxious
(to their parents) instead of picking up
a lifelong habit that costs a hundred
bucks a month and leads to death.”
Boys and what they eat
Growing boys can seem to their
parents like bottomless pits; they’re
always hungry, always eating. And a lot
of what they tend to eat, away from
home especially, is junk food.
Patrick Egbe, M.D., of Choice
Pediatrix in Rockingham, says it isn’t
easy to get kids to choose vegetables
and fruit instead of fries and soft
drinks, but parents and physicians
should do what they can.
“The fast food habit is part of the
reason obesity is now a pandemic,” he
says. “There is so much advertising for
foods that are high in fat and high in
calories, and a lot of it is targeted at
kids. It’s important to emphasize that
a balanced diet is important for their
weight and their health.”
Dr. Diasio agrees, saying, “If you’re
heavy at 18, you’re probably going to
be heavy the rest of your life.”
The heavier you are, the greater your
risk for diabetes, high blood pressure
and heart disease.
In addition to eating too much of the
wrong things, some kids also become
heavy and unhealthy because they
don’t get enough exercise. A lot of
teenagers spend hours watching TV,
surfing the Web or playing computer
games instead of chasing fly balls or
shooting jump shots.
“We recommend at least one hour
a day of physical activity and no more
than two hours of screen time,” Dr.
For more information on FirstHealth’s
teen tobacco program, call
(800) 213-3284 toll-free.
Get those vaccinations
Children get most of their important immunizations by the time they start school, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccines for all kids at age 11 or 12.
One vaccine, called Tdap, prevents tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. The other vaccine, MCV4, protects against bacterial meningitis, a serious disease that causes inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord.
A vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the leading cause of cervical cancer, is recommended for pre-teen girls.
Adolescence is when kids, especially boys, start becoming less attentive to their medical care, says Patrick Egbe, M.D., a pediatrician in Rockingham.
“Like a lot of adults, they think the absence of disease is good health, and that is not necessarily true,” he says. “They need regular check-ups and preventive care, as well as education about all the things that could be issues at their age, from acne to sex.”