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Pediatricians group says all children should be screened for cholesterol, depression, HIV

The new set of guidelines establishes younger ages for many conditions and diseases because they can be prevented starting in childhood if caught early by doctors.
By Stephen Feller   |   Dec. 7, 2015 at 2:22 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that all children -- not just those at risk -- be tested for high cholesterol, depression, and HIV in a new set of guidelines published in the journal Pediatrics.

The association published a list of conditions and diseases children should be tested for throughout childhood from birth to age 21 based on studies in recent years showing many adult health concerns can start early in life.

The goal, the association said, is to catch health concerns while they are developing in order to avoid the need for future medication or treatment. The changes have been approved by the group over the course of the past year, according to a press release.

The academy is now recommending children be screened for depression every year starting at age 11, at least partially because suicide has become one of the leading causes of death among adolescents.

A screening for high cholesterol in children between the ages of 9 and 11 is now recommended, at least in part because of the high rate of obesity in young people.

"We do see high cholesterol in kids as young as 9 or 10 -- it's not just adults any more," Dr. Amanda Porro, a pediatrician at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, told HealthDay, adding the diagnosis could also indicate a larger problem. "In some cases, we need to take a deeper dive and have the family work with a nutritionist."

The most logical treatment for younger children who have high cholesterol, or are shown to be at risk for it, are lifestyle changes such as exercise and changes in diet, doctors said.

In addition to looking for indications of the beginning of heart disease, the group said newborns should not be released from the hospital after birth unless they've been screened for congenital heart disease. At 15 and 30 months, the doctors also said infants should be screened for risk of developing anemia.

To help with teeth, the doctors group said children should receive some type of fluoride treatment from the time their teeth appear until the age of 5 using a small amount of toothpaste. Children 6 and up can use fluoride treatments with the assistance of their parents, they write.

The group also said teenagers should start being screened for HIV between age 16 and 18 based on previous research showing 1 in 4 new HIV infections is in young people aged 13 to 24. The screenings are recommended for teens who indicate they are sexually active; however, the guidelines suggest doctors be more proactive about asking.

"We know from national surveys that adolescents are having sex and are not good about having protection," Dr. Lee Beers, medical director for municipal and regional affairs at Children's National Health System told NBC News. "They don't think long term."

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