Pediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with infants, children, and adolescents from birth up to 18 years old. Some pediatricians provide medical care for young adults until they reach 21 years old, mostly depending on the country. Pediatricians can continue to oversee young people’s health through adolescence, and some parents may feel more comfortable transitioning to see a pediatrician specializing in treating teenagers.
Other pediatricians provide care until the young adult has completed secondary education. Some pediatricians work in hospitals, and others work in private practice as primary care physicians.
Brief History of Pediatrics
Historically, back in ancient Greek times, doctors have provided medical care for people of all ages, including children. Despite this, pediatrics is considered a relatively new field of medicine, developing only in the mid-19th century. However, it was understood early on that children required different health care than grown adults.
The literal meaning of the word pediatrics is “healer of children,” which is derived from Greek words “pais,” which means child, and “iatros,” which means doctor or healer.
Traditional medical doctors have provided health care for patients of any age, including both young and older people, with little specialization. Old texts such as the Ebers papyrus in 1552 BCE discussed various topics such as breastfeeding, cure for worms, and treating ocular diseases. Additionally, Hippocrates wrote about several issues which are related to pediatric health around 400 BCE, such as asthma, cephalhematoma, diarrhea, hydrocephalus, and mumps.
The field of pediatrics that we know today can be traced back to prominent historical figures in the field, such as Dr. Abraham Jacobi, who is considered the father of pediatrics in America. Jacobi was a German pediatrician who arrived in New York in 1853. He formed several societies devoted to pediatric health and children’s departments in the hospitals of New York.
How is pediatrics different from adult medicine?
The field of pediatrics is different from adult medicine in various ways. One significant difference is how treating children is not like treating an adult because of the physiological difference of a child’s body to an adult.
Congenital disabilities, genetic variance, and developmental issues are a greater concern for pediatricians than physicians treating adults. Additionally, pediatrics has several legal issues as children are minors who cannot make decisions in most jurisdictions. Guardianship, privacy, legal responsibility, and informed consent are several aspects to be considered for every pediatric procedure.
What does a pediatrician do?
A pediatrician is a child’s physician who provides medical care and preventive health services for children. A pediatrician manages and monitors children’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being under their care at every stage of their development.
Pediatricians work with several aspects of children’s health, which means they are trained in assessing, detecting, preventing, and managing health issues that can affect children. Their work involves various health-related services and care, ranging from health and wellness screenings and evaluations to managing complex medical conditions.
Generally, pediatricians perform various procedures such as:
- physical exams
- treating injuries like fractures and dislocations
- evaluation of a child’s physical, emotional, and social development
- prescription of medications like pain relievers and antibiotics
- providing general health advice for children
- diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions
- connecting families with other pediatric specialists depending on the needs of the child.
Aims of pediatrics
The study of pediatrics aims to reduce infant and child rates of deaths, control the spread of infectious diseases to children, promote healthy lifestyles for a long life free of diseases, and help ease children and adolescents dealing with chronic conditions.
Pediatricians can diagnose and treat several conditions among children, including:
- genetic and congenital conditions
- organ diseases and dysfunctions
Pediatrics is also concerned with the immediate management of children with diseases and the long-term effects on the quality of life, disability, and survival. Pediatricians are involved with the prevention, early detection, and management of problems such as:
- developmental delays and disorders
- behavioral problems
- functional disabilities
- social stresses
The Role of Pediatricians During Childhood
A pediatrician plays a big role in a child’s health, especially when it comes to their physical and mental development. They provide the basic health services that a child needs and screen the child for other problems. In several cases, delays in diagnosing a problem can impede a child’s growth or worsen the existing health problem.
Pediatricians keep track of their patient’s medical records. They also maintain the growth chart that they use to ensure that any problem with a child’s normal development can be addressed and taken care of with the right treatment at the right time.
When a pediatrician performs a physical examination on a child, it goes beyond basic observation of the body functions. A thorough physical examination can inform the doctor about numerous health problems that a child can have, such as problems with hormones or immunity. If a pediatrician misses a symptom, a child’s treatment will likely be delayed, or their health will get affected.
Aside from this, pediatricians can also act as the bridge of communication between patients, parents, and other pediatric specialists. Pediatricians can provide counsel and guidance to children, which can help prepare them for treatment. Pediatricians can help parents in understanding the significance of mental health or specialized treatment for their child. Parents can also rely on pediatricians for answers to their queries about their child’s health.
How are pediatricians trained?
Similar to practitioners in different fields of medicine, such as a neurologist in Taguig, pediatricians need to have extensive training and education, as well as a license, before they can start in their specialization to practice medicine.
According to the American Board of Pediatrics, a doctor who wants to become a pediatrician must complete a three-year residency program in pediatrics after graduating from medical school and getting a license.
Some pediatricians start their general care practice after finishing the residency program. Other pediatricians opt to enter fellowship programs where they have additional training in pediatric subspecialties.
Additionally, some pediatricians take an additional step of becoming board-certified in pediatrics, where they have to pass demanding tests and undergo continuous professional education throughout their careers. Pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists also need to work to stay up to date with the current medical knowledge as they practice medicine.
Collaboration with other specialists
Pediatrics is a collaborative specialty in the field of medicine. Pediatricians work closely and collaborate with other medical specialists, healthcare professionals, and pediatrics subspecialists on health problems and conditions.
There are many types of pediatricians, such as general pediatricians who practice primary care and are focused on the general needs of children. Some pediatricians have specializations in certain areas such as:
- Adolescent Medicine
Adolescents are at the crucial stages of changes and development as they face social and academic pressures. They also can face potentially life-threatening diseases and illnesses, habits, and behaviors. Adolescent health specialists are trained to help teens, and young adults between the ages of 11 and 21 with their complex physical, behavioral, and emotional health care needs such as physical exams, immunizations, reproductive care, and mental health care.
- Pediatric Cardiology
A pediatric cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart problems in children.
- Child Abuse Pediatrics
These pediatricians have special training, experience, and skills in evaluating children who may be victims of a certain type of abuse or neglect.
- Pediatric Critical Care Medicine
A hospital-based pediatric critical care specialist provides special care for a child in an unstable critical condition due to a serious illness or injury.
- Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics
These pediatrics specialists have training and experience in considering the medical and psychosocial aspects of developmental and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. It includes a wide range of specializations such as learning disorders, habit disorders like tics, regulatory disorders such as feeding problems and discipline difficulties, developmental disabilities like cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders, delayed development in children. It also includes other behavioral and developmental problems related to the full range of pediatric chronic illnesses and disabling conditions.
- Pediatric Emergency Medicine
These specialists are focused on the care of the acutely ill or injured child in an emergency department.
- Pediatric Endocrinology
A pediatric endocrinologist deals with growth, puberty, diabetes, or other disorders or issues related to the hormones and the glands that produce these hormones.
- Pediatric Gastroenterology
These specialists provide care for children and adolescents who are dealing with digestive difficulties.
- Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
This specialist is focused on blood-related disorders and cancers in children.
- Pediatric Hospital Medicine
Pediatric hospitalists primarily work in a hospital where they care for children throughout the hospital. It includes pediatric acute care areas, the newborn nursery, the emergency department, labor, and delivery. It also involves the neonatal or pediatric intensive care units.
- Pediatric Infectious Diseases
These specialists are focused on evaluating and treating children with acquired or congenital disorders of the immune system, including those caused by bacteria, a fungus, a parasite, or other types of rare infections.
- Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
These specialists focus on providing care for infants before, during, and after birth. They also treat premature and critically ill newborn infants.
- Pediatric nephrologists
They specialize in treating various conditions involved with the urinary system, including urinary tract infections and kidney diseases.
- Pediatric neurologists
These specialists treat and manage neurological disorders in children. Some neurological conditions that appear during childhood may persist even in adulthood. Pediatric neurologists oversee their patients’ care from diagnosis through adolescence.
- Pediatric Pulmonology
Pediatric pulmonologists focus on treating children with breathing or lung problems.
- Pediatric Rheumatology
These specialists are focused on providing care for children with autoimmune diseases or diseases where the immune system attacks the healthy cells of a child’s body. Rheumatic diseases also include fevers, joint pains, rashes, and involvement of the internal organs.
- Rehabilitative Medicine
This pediatric specialization is concerned with physical and occupational therapy for children.
Pediatric specialists have additional education and training in specific treatments and procedures for diagnosing diseases in children. For example, a pediatric heart specialist or cardiologist has advanced knowledge and experience when it comes to treating heart conditions in children. These specialists may also have received training in performing various types of heart tests and procedures.
At times, primary care pediatricians may lack the qualifications or expertise needed for the treatment of complex medical conditions. They may refer the child to the appropriate pediatric specialist for further testing and treatment.
When is it needed to see a pediatrician?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 1 in 6 children between 3-17 years old have one issue involving their development and behavior, such as autism, a learning disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Additionally, some children have delays in language or other areas, affecting their performance in school. Many children with developmental disabilities are not identified until they are in school, which may signify significant delays in terms of time. Early identification and treatment of these health issues can lead to better outcomes for young children in the long run.
Parents and caretakers could take their child to a pediatrician for periodic well-child visits, which can be an opportunity for them to inquire about any questions they may have regarding their child’s health. Pediatricians can also give vaccinations to the child during these visits, if appropriate.
During a well-care visit, a pediatrician proceeds to evaluate the child’s physical and emotional development. There may also be questions about a child’s eating, sleeping, social habits as they evaluate their health. Pediatricians can also inform parents and educators about possible signs that suggest a physical or behavioral problem.
Additionally, parents or caregivers who have an ongoing concern about their child’s health should call or set an appointment with pediatricians in Manila.
A child should be brought to the emergency room if they have a 40°C fever or if the fever is accompanied by seizures, confusion, constant crying, or trouble with breathing. It is also vital to call emergency services if a baby younger than two months has a temperature of 38°C.
Parents or caregivers who think their child has a medical emergency should go to the nearest emergency room.
Why Do You Need a Pediatrician?
The main difference between a pediatrician and a family doctor is that pediatricians have a specialization in caring for babies, children, and teenagers. On the other hand, family doctors also treat adults in a family. Choosing between a family doctor and a pediatrician can boil down to personal preference. Some may want to have everyone in the family to be treated by the same doctor, while others may prefer doctors who are focused on caring for children only.
The decision on choosing a pediatrician or a doctor is ultimately a personal choice. The choice may also come down to which doctor makes you feel most comfortable. Whether you are looking for a pediatrician or a family doctor, here are some things to consider before deciding:
- Does this doctor have a good reputation?
- What is the doctor’s training and experience?
- Will the child need to see the same doctor every time?
- Is the office location convenient?
- How long does it take to get an appointment?
- What are their office hours?
- How do I reach them if there is an emergency after hours?
- What hospital are they affiliated with?
- How is billing handled?
- How friendly and helpful is the staff?
Aside from these, here are some reasons that can be considered when it comes to choosing a pediatrician for your child
- Pediatricians have specialized training in addressing the physical, emotional, and behavioral needs of children.
- Pediatricians often have a broader experience in recognizing and treating childhood illnesses.
- If your baby is born prematurely or has a health condition that needs close monitoring, a pediatrician may offer more specialized care for the baby.
How Does a Pediatrician Work with a Delivery Team?
Most hospitals typically ask if a mother has a pediatrician before going in to deliver. A baby’s first examination may be with a hospital pediatrician or a parent’s chosen pediatrician. It mostly depends on hospital policy, whether the pediatrician makes rounds when delivering the baby, and whether the baby was born early.
If the baby is born early, they go to the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU, where highly specialized NICU doctors and nurses care for the baby and monitor their health until they are fully developed.
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in treating babies, children, and teenagers. Some pediatricians are primary care physicians, while others specialize in treating and caring for specific childhood health conditions.
Choosing between a pediatrician or a family care doctor may depend on those who are available in your area. The choice may also depend on whether you want your child to be monitored by the same doctor into adulthood. However, it is a good idea to find a pediatric care provider that you can trust while you are still pregnant so your child can begin regular well visits right away.
While your child will switch to a doctor who specializes in treating adults, a good relationship with a caring pediatrician is vital during one’s childhood years.
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