The most direct and simplest definition of pediatrics is the field of medical care and practice that devotes itself to seeing a child grow up physically and emotionally healthy. Starting at age 1 day and looking ahead to the child's development into adulthood, pediatrics is one of the most complicated fields of medicine because children are always growing and changing. Any parent knows that each child has their own set of problems and challenges that have to be dealt with. This reality is why your pediatrician, the doctor who practices pediatrics, should be one of the parent's best friends.
The Short List
There are a number of specialties in pediatrics. Here is a short list of the types of specialists you are most commonly going to encounter as your child develops.
Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine – This specialty generally involves treating children in the early and late teens.
Allergy and Immunology – Treats children who have allergies or allergic conditions, and those who have asthma or issue with their immune system.
Emergency Medicine or Critical Care – Technically these are two separate specialties, but when your child arrives in the emergency room the differences will not likely matter much to you.
Developmental Medicine – Here the focus is on the emotional and intellectual development of the child. Behavioral problems, issues with school academics, and social interaction are a few examples of what this area specializes in.
Endocrinology – With this specialty, think hormones. There are a number of developmental problems associated with hormones that are out of balance in a child. Ask any parent who has a teenager.
General Pediatrics – As the name of the specialty states, these pediatricians are trained to address a wide variety of the more common physical and emotional issues.
Hospital Medicine – Nobody likes to be sick, and even more so no child likes to have to stay and be treated in the hospital. Pediatricians with this specialty spend the majority of their time training in hospitals.
Infectious Diseases and Global Health – Though immunizations against measles, mumps, and chicken pox significantly reduce the possibility of the spread of infectious diseases, the flu, common cold, and MRSA are diseases that can affect affect your child.
Nutrition – There are more connections between poor diet and childhood illnesses and diseases than you may realize. While not every child needs to consult with a pediatric nutritionist, it is wise to schedule an appointment with one at various stages of the child's development.
As you can see from The Short List, you may need to see several specialists for your child depending on the specific problems that occur during their development. Generally, a pediatrician will perform common duties such as doing an annual physical, treating minor injuries and diseases such as a clod or the flu, and making observations about the child's emotional development. Should any condition be of particular concern to the pediatrician, they may refer you to a specialist for further testing and diagnosis. Naturally, they are able to write prescriptions and order additional testing when necessary.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the relationship between you and a pediatrician is the relationship between your child and the pediatrician. Because of the broad range of services a pediatrician provides, it is best that your child gets along with them easily. This develops confidence in the doctor by the child. Since it is not advisable to change pediatricians, especially between the ages of birth to seven years old, the happier the child is with the pediatrician, the better. Open communication is essential in any doctor-patient relationship, and is even more critical when children are involved.