Ailments and Illnesses of The Adolescent

There are few serious physical illnesses occurring specifically in adolescence but there are a number of ailments to which young people appear prone.

Spots and Acne.

Many adolescents have a tendency to develop spots and blackheads on the face, back and chest. This can be unsightly and cause them a great deal of embarrassment. Blackheads are due to dirt and dust settling on excess fatty secretion of the pores.

Blackheads should not be squeezed too forcibly as this may cause infection or scars. Regular cleansing of the skin with good soap, really hot water and brisk friction will usually keep blackheads from forming.

They are more common in boys than girls and make their appearance at fifteen or sixteen years of age and often do not clear up until nineteen or twenty years, or even later.

Acne is primarily due to overactivity of the sex glands. Care should be taken to keep the skin clean, but medical attention is necessary in severe cases.

Dental Decay.

Grave disquiet has been expressed at the number of children and adolescents who have needed dental treatment or who had mouths full of decayed teeth.

This is a real danger to health and, when dental treatment is required, it should be sought as soon as possible. Young people should be encouraged to make six-monthly visits for dental inspection.

Earache, particularly of the middle ear, is a most noticeable defect in school leavers and should never be neglected or ignored.

Merely to give the sufferer an aspirin and send him to bed, although this may give temporary relief, is quite inadequate: the doctor should be consulted. Hearing is too valuable to be lost on the threshold of adult life.

Sore Throats, Tonsillitis and Catarrhal Infections are relatively common in young girls when they first start work and have to travel long distances in crowded buses and trains. Smoking can make this condition worse.

Those who are rather susceptible to these complaints should stay at home at the first sign of the trouble and remain in an even temperature for 24 to 48 hours; this is often more effective than doses of medicines. It is important to keep warm, and although light clothing is suitable in a heated house, school or office, a good overcoat for cold damp winters is a worthwhile investment for out-door wear.


This is one of the few serious illnesses which can be a special danger to the adolescent at school leaving age and during the late teens. Tuberculosis is no longer as prevalent as it was over thirty years ago but it has by no means been eradicated.

To prevent the teenager acquiring tuberculosis, BCG vaccination is given at school age. The ordinary safeguards for the young person are to avoid overcrowded and badly venti-lated rooms, etc., whenever possible, and to get plenty of fresh air and good food.

Venereal Diseases.

Of recent years there has been a noticeable increase in sexual promiscuity among adolescents with their earlier physical maturity and the changing attitudes of our permissive society. And with promiscuity comes the danger of infection with a venereal disease.

When parents speak to their young people of sexual matters they also need to inform them that the micro-organisms of both gonorrhoea and syphilis are passed from an infected partner to the other in the warm moist exchange of coitus. They are not picked up from cold toilet seats. Young people also need to be told of the damage which VD can do and of the importance of prompt medical treatment after suspected infection. Antibiotic treatment can be given by a VD clinic or by any medical practitioner.

A scourge of HIV/AIDS is now spreading fast. Adolescents are a very susceptible group. In case of HIV/AIDS of prevention is better than cure. And much publicity has been made in preventing HIV/AIDS by using condoms.

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