Oct 15, 2018

Dr. Gellner: Teens and STDs, or STIs as they're now called, sexually transmitted infections, are they really something we need to worry about? More than you think.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kid Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: While adults tried to stress to teens the importance of abstinence, it's no surprise that in the throes of hormones teens do have sex, often unprotected, and that can lead to STIs. STIs are infections that pass from one person to another during sexual contact, whether it be intercourse, oral sex, or anal sex. Some of the more common STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HPV, or human papillomavirus, trichomoniasis.

Others include lice, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis. The good news is that all of these have ways of being prevented. The easiest way to prevent some like hepatitis and HPV is to make sure your child is vaccinated against those diseases. Consistently using barrier protection, such as condoms, also helps prevent STIs.

The good news is that some STIs, like chlamydia, can be cured with antibiotics. The bad news is that viral STIs, like herpes, HPV and HIV, can be treated with medications to help with symptoms, but never cured. Quite often, teenagers and adults may not even realize that they have an STI. Many of these don't have symptoms until the infection has gotten out of control. And so the diseases can spread to many sexual partners.

STIs can have significant consequences, including affecting whether a woman can get pregnant or not, trigger premature birth, or even spread from a pregnant mother to her baby and cause birth defects or even death to the baby. And guys, they can become infertile.

Teens are often self-conscious about talking about anything that has to do with their privates. But symptoms of STI shouldn't be ignored. The most common symptoms are pain with urination and unusual discharge. But any blisters or painless bumps in the private area need to be checked out as well. STIs are often pretty easy to diagnose. Normally, all that is required is an exam and a urine test. For some STIs, like HIV or hepatitis, blood tests are needed. Depending on what the diagnosis is determines what treatment would be given.

So how can you educate your teen about preventing STIs? First and foremost, the most important thing is to have open communication about sex. Knowing what your family's values are and reassurance that your teen is able to talk to you about any concerns goes a long way. If your teen is sexually active, make sure they know about contraception options. And if they have any symptoms, be sure to make an appointment with your child's provider as soon as possible. We talk to teens all the time about these kinds of things, and we can easily help you navigate this tricky part of growing up.

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