Health Topics

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For more information about teen health resources and services in New York City, please view our Teen Health Resource Guide, in both English and Chinese.

Abstinence (to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex) is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Although many birth control methods have high rates of success if used correctly, they sometimes fail. Abstinence also significantly reduces your chances of getting Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Eight in ten females and six in ten males say they wish they had waited until they were older to have sex.

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy (usually early or within the first trimester). Abortions can be conducted within a clinic via a medical procedure or through the use of an abortion pill.

Almost 100% of teens between ages 12 and 17 have occasional acne (whiteheads, blackheads, inflamed red growths on the skin) regardless of their race or ethnicity. Many of these young people are able to manage their acne with over-the-counter (nonprescription) treatments. For some, however, acne is more serious. By their mid-teens, more than 40% of adolescents have acne severe enough to require some treatment by a physician.

Birth Control Options
31% percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 – about 750,000 a year. 80% of these pregnancies are unintended and 81% of these pregnancies occur in unmarried teens. There are many hormonal and barrier birth control options to choose from. Some birth control methods, such as the male condom, protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Other birth control methods, such as the birth control pill, only protect against pregnancy. For more information on birth control options, visit the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Confidentiality and Minors’ Rights
A minor is a person under the age of 18. In New York State, a minor can consent to confidential family planning services (birth control, HIV / STI testing), including abortion services. A minor may be tested and treated for an STI without a parent or guardian’s consent. Minors can also consent to confidential alcohol and substance abuse counseling and mental health services without parental consent.

Drugs and Alcohol
Teenagers may become involved with alcohol and legal or illegal drugs in various ways. Using alcohol and tobacco at a young age may increase the risk of using other drugs later. Drugs and alcohol can impair your judgment and cause memory loss or lethal overdose.

Emergency Contraception
Emergency Contraception is an emergency birth control pill that can be taken if another birth control method failed or was not used (i.e. if a condom tears). It is most effective within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy, and the earlier you get EC, the better. People of all ages can purchase Emergency Contraception from a pharmacy or get a prescription from the clinic. CBWCHC offers in-house emergency contraception pills, please call TRC at 212-226-2044.

Family Planning
Family Planning services let a person control if/when to have children by preventing pregnancy and transmission of HIV/STIs. Family planning services are available to anyone of reproductive age. If a teen does not have health insurance or cannot pay for family planning services, Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s Title X Program may cover costs. Title X is a federally funded government program that provides birth control and reproductive services to low-income women and men.

Gynecological Exams (GYN)
Gynecological exams are recommended for girls who are older than 21 or who have been sexually active. The purpose of a gynecological exam is to detect cervical cancer and STIs. A GYN exam usually consists of a pap smear and a bimanual exam.

HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV attacks the immune system by taking over the warrior T cells – the white blood cells that help fight off bacteria and infections. When the body has less than 200 T Cells, the person is considered to have AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Symptoms of HIV are similar to that of the flu, but some people may not show any symptoms.

HIV Testing
HIV can be tested via a blood test or a 20 minute oral swab. The oral swab procedure consists of swabbing the inside of the mouth to test for anti-bodies in a person’s saliva. There is a window period for HIV testing; it can take up to 3 months after contracting HIV for it to show on tests.

HIV Treatment
While HIV is incurable, there are treatments available to keep the virus under control so that a person who is HIV positive will never reach the stage of AIDS.

Mental Health/Social Work
Minors can consent to counseling provided by Social Workers and Mental Health specialists as well as medication given by Mental Health specialists and Pediatrics medical doctors. Services will remain confidential as long as the person providing care decides that requiring parental permission or notification would have negative effects on the well-being of the minor.

Minors’ Rights & Confidentiality
Minors (anyone under 18) can consent (agree to medical treatment) to sexual health services without parental consent. Sexual health services include testing for STIs, treatment for STIs, testing for pregnancy, prenatal care, abortion and receiving birth control options. Other confidential services minors can consent to include mental health counseling/medication, drug/alcohol control counseling and non-medical services as well as sexual assault care (medical, evidence collection kit, counseling).

Nutrition and Exercise
Many teens today don’t get the proper nutrition that they need—contributing to the growing problem of obesity in the United States. This means that they are continuously taking in more calories than their bodies can burn off. Eating well, along with good exercise habits, gives you energy, wards off illness and infection, helps you think clearly, and keeps your body in good working order and shape.

Personal and Dental Hygiene
Sweat glands are more active when you are a teenager. You might notice body odor under your armpits. Your feet and your genitals might also have new smells as well. It is estimated that as much as 97% of the population of the United States have a form of dandruff at some point in their lives. Proper care of your body and teeth helps improve your hygiene.

Pregnancy Tests
Pregnancy tests are done with a urine sample. Regular pregnancy tests are most accurate after 14 days of a missed period. An early detection pregnancy test can be done as early as 10 days after possible conception (usually before a missed period).

Prenatal Care
Prenatal care consists of any medical care that a person may need in order to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Did you know that about 70% of smokers want to quit smoking? Smoking can cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, and strokes, as well as cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder. In addition, smoking is known to contribute to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys. Researchers have identified more than 40 chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause cancer in humans and animals.

Every year, more than 12 million cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs, also known as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) are reported in the United States. At least 3 million of these cases are amongst teenagers. Teens have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections of any age group. One study reports that almost a third (30%) of sexually active teens contract a new STI within six months of having sex. There are both curable and incurable forms of STIs. Some examples of curable STIs include: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, pubic lice, and scabies. Some examples of incurable STIs include: herpes, genital warts (Human Papillomavirus, or HPV), hepatitis B, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

STI Testing
While STIs are most commonly tested via a blood test, procedures may be different depending on which STI is being tested.

STI Treatment
Bacterial STIs can be cured with either antibiotics or medicinal cream from a doctor. While there are no cures for viral STIs, there are treatments to help maintain the infection.

Stress Management
Depression, irritability and sleep problems are health issues that are often overlooked. Many teens face the same worries as adults which are compounded by additional problems common to teenagers, such as changing hormones and peer pressure. Like adults, teens worry about finances, family, friends, world issues, their futures, and their pasts. What can teens do about stress? The first step is to learn more about stress management strategies.

Testicular Exams
Although testicular cancer is unusual in teenage males (it occurs in 3 out of 100,000 males between ages 15 and 19 in the United States), it is the second most common cancer seen during the teen years. It is also the most common cancer in males ages 20 to 34. Early detection (such as a self testicular exam or a clinical testicular exam) can increase the chances of effectively treating testicular cancer.

There are a few vaccinations are recommended for teens: HPV, MCD4, TDAP. The HPV vaccinations prevents againstthe Human Papilomavirus which can cause cervical cancer in females as well as genital warts in males and females. The MCV4 vaccination prevents Meningococcal meningitis that causes inflammation around the brain spinal cord which can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, and even death. TDAP helps to prevent tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis. etanus is known as “lockjaw” causing headaches, and spasms in the jaw. Diphtheria causes a thick coating in the back of the nose or throat and can also attack the heart resulting in abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. Pertussis is known as whooping cough or 100-day cough, a prolonged, sometimes extreme, coughing.