Taking your child to a pediatrician can be as simple as making sure your child is hitting all their growth and development benchmarks. However, a visit to the pediatrician may also make you aware of a developmental challenge in an early, more treatable stage. Keeping your child safe and healthy may also take the work of a pediatric emergency specialist. There are also pediatricians who focus on the heart, lungs, kidneys and gut.
What is a pediatrician?
A pediatrician is a physician who treats a growing child or adolescent. Pediatricians can be consulted as soon as you or your partner become pregnant. If you are looking to adopt a baby and know the mother of the child prior to delivery, consider bringing in a pediatrician to consult prior to the birth of your baby.
Once your child is comfortable with their pediatrician, you may find that they share more information with their doctor than they do with a parent or a caregiver. Use this relationship to reduce any risks to your child’s well-being.
Specializations of a pediatrician
A pediatrician can be a primary care physician, taking care of a child during regular check-ups. For a pediatrician who wants to specialize, it’s also possible to focus on a particular age group, such as adolescents or infants.
A pediatrician interested in emergency medicine or critical care can focus on
- emergency pediatrics, from injuries to illness
- pediatric oncology, focusing on children undergoing cancer care
- pediatric cardiology, up to and including pediatric heart surgeons
- pediatric pulmonary care, such as specialists in conditions including asthma and cystic fibrosis
- pediatric endocrinologists, who treat conditions from glandular disorders to diabetes
- pediatric neurologists focus on children dealing with neurological disorders
- pediatric nephrologists, who specialize in the care of the kidneys
There are also pediatric specialties that treat developmental challenges. This training includes a knowledge of learning challenges, behavioral issues and mental health concerns. Because many mental health issues crop up when a child is going through adolescence, keeping lines of communication open with your pediatrician is key during a time that is often quite difficult for children and parents alike.
Other pediatric specialties care for children born prematurely or those who face serious illness at birth or directly after they are born. Finally, there are specialists who focus on children struggling with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and other inflammatory conditions.
What pediatricians do
Pediatricians understand that children’s bodies are undergoing dynamic changes on a regular basis. Regular visits to one pediatrician can allow this skilled professional to regularly review your child’s development and lessen the risk that they will suffer long term health challenges due to an unnoticed developmental challenge.
When do you need a pediatrician?
Pediatricians can cover infants from conception to young adults up to the age of 21. If you are planning a family, it’s time to look for a pediatrician. If you have a known family risk, consider discussing your choice of pediatrician with others who have a child facing that risk.
Even if your child has little family risk and is extremely healthy, you will need to bring your child to see their pediatrician 6 to 7 times in their first year of life. Once they turn a year old, a visit every 3 months is a good idea. As your child gets older, they can scale back to 1 visit per year.
In the event of an illness that includes a high fever, over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, your child needs to go to the emergency room. Other symptoms include breathing problems and uncontrollable crying. A fever can go from uncomfortable to dangerous very quickly; be ready to take action.
Education and training
After completing a Bachelor’s degree and medical school, pediatricians must complete a 3 year residency. To receive certification in specialized areas, a fellowship program may be necessary. Finally, a pediatrician can be board certified, which will require additional education throughout their lives and regular reviews by other physicians.
What about adolescents?
Any child or young person between the ages of 11 and 21 is classed as an adolescent by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because children are going through a lot of endocrinological changes during these years, regular appointments with a pediatrician will keep your teenager or young adult safer and healthier.
Developmental challenges in early adolescence may not appear until your child is in their later teens or early twenties. Care from a pediatrician who knows their history can go a long way to keeping them as healthy as possible into adulthood.
Pediatricians treat children from conception into young adulthood. Regular visits to your pediatrician can help you and your child manage any conditions that could result in a lifetime of health challenges. Emergency pediatric care is critical after an accident or in the event of a fever or serious illness.