Pediatricians have been around since early times. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that pediatrics was recognized and developed as a proper medical field. Derived from the Greek words ‘pais’ -or child- and ‘iatros’ meaning ‘doctor’ or ‘healer’, practicing physicians are known as Pediatricians or, more commonly, ‘Child Specialists’.
What is Pediatrics?
Pediatrics literally translates to ‘healer of children.’ It is the field of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children and adolescents.
Who is a Pediatrician?
They are doctors who work exclusively with children from infancy to young adulthood (18-21) to help manage and treat various afflictions of the body and mind, ranging from common ailments and vaccine administration to complex diseases such as diabetes, as well as early detection and personalized treatment of congenital disorders and defects which might continue into their later years.
Children are not simply ‘little adults’. Their organs and bodies are proportionately smaller and less mature compared to adults, hence, adult-suitable treatments do not usually suit children and might even cause grave damage in some cases. A trained pediatrician can handle such treatments in accordance with a child’s age.
Child specialists are also adept at identifying and treating child-specific illnesses and are equipped with high levels of patience as well as the communication skills required to handle young patients.
Common Issues Treated by Pediatricians:
Pediatricians are primarily concerned with the healthy growth and development of their patients. Their duties, therefore, include appropriate diagnosis and treatment of the following most common illnesses:
- Common childhood bacterial infections
- Whooping cough
- Nutrition problems
- Neonatal Encephalopathy (affects newborns by disturbing neurological function with serious effects on body function)
- Early cardiovascular disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Brain tumors
- Chemical Exposure
- Celiac disease
- Foetal origins of adult disease
- Youth smoking
Types of Pediatricians:
While pediatricians are typically divided into General Pediatricians, Surgical Specialists and Neonatologists, most other medical specialists also branch into pediatrics. General Pediatricians tend to the diagnosis, evaluation and care of the range of illnesses that typically impact younger populations- this includes infectious diseases, common ailments and minor injuries. Pediatric Surgeons administer surgery for abnormalities in the groin in childhood and adolescence, surgical correction of congenital impairments, serious injuries such as gun and knife wounds or liver lacerations. They also deal with the diagnosis and removal of tumors, transplantation surgeries and endoscopic processes. Neonatal specialists tend to the health of infants, particularly premature or ill newborns. They are the point of contact in cases of low-birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction congenital malformations, sepsis, birth asphyxia and pulmonary hypoplasia.
The sub-specialities in pediatric care include the following:
- Pediatric Neurologists: For tending to ailments pertaining to the nervous system, including the brain, nerves, muscles and spine; this includes diagnosis, prevention and treatment of headaches, seizures, congenital malformations,autoimmune disabilities, strokes and traumatic brain injuries,inflammation or infections of the brain, muscular dystrophy or neuropathy and developmental delays.
- Pediatric Dentists: For administering dental care and oral hygiene maintenance. These specialists also educate parents regarding their children’s dental needs, and should be referred to when a child begins teething or loses their first tooth.
- Pediatric Eye Specialists/ Ophthalmologists: To treat early age vision issues and Strabismus (cross-eyes). They also administer eye exams, perform microsurgery and laser surgery for the correction of weak eyes, wandering eyes, blocked tear ducts, retinal complications and infections.They may even diagnose issues of the eyes that are the result of other ailments in the body, such as diabetes or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The diagnosis and treatment of visual processing orders and the administration of glasses and contact lenses also comes under this specialization.
- Allergist: Childhood asthma and serious allergic reaction management. These specialists are well-trained in catering to allergic rhinitis (more commonly referred to as hay fever), hives, eczema, and chronic sinus infections. They understand the specific tools and treatments for their younger patients.
- Pediatric Endocrinologist: For the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of variations in physical growth and sexual development in childhood, type 1 diabetes and thyroid and adrenal issues in adolescents.
- Pediatric Dermatologist: To deal with pubescent hormonal acne as well as birthmarks and inherited skin disorders.
- Child Psychologist or Psychiatrist: To cater to the mental and behavioral health from birth till adolescence. They deal with disorders such as ADHD, dyslexia and other learning challenges. For the administration of medication for mental disorders, child psychiatrists should be consulted. Childhood experiences and mental health determines a lot of mental health factors in adulthood, which is why this field is becoming widely popular.
- Pediatric Cardiologist: For congenital or acquired cardiovascular problems.
Most of these specialists can also provide consultations at specialty children’s hospitals for patients’ convenience.
When To See A Pediatric Specialist?
Pediatricians usually check newborns after 48 to 72 hours, and encourage regular visits till the child is two, after which annual health checkups are required. For premature babies, or children with birth defects, rare medical conditions, disabilities or early childhood onset conditions, exclusive pediatric care is recommended.
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