Pediatrics is the medical specialty that deals with the care of infants, children and adolescents. Medical doctors who treat children, called pediatricians, are trained to monitor their patients as they grow and ensure that they are reaching normal milestones during their stages of development.
Pediatricians also oversee the general health of their patients, making sure that children receive proper nutrition, adequate rest and enough physical activity to be healthy.
Regular wellness visits can help identify and diagnose any potential problems early, and a pediatrician can refer a patient to a specialist if necessary.
Subspecialties of Pediatrics
Pediatricians can undergo additional training to further subspecialize. These subspecialties include:
Neonatologists care for newborn infants who require special care due to illness or premature birth. Usually the patients are treated inside a neonatal intensive care unit within a hospital.
These doctors study children and adolescents who suffer from developmental disorders or mental disorders that are a result of illness or injury.
Pediatric ophthalmologists treat vision problems in children. This can include infections or glaucoma.
These doctors treat a number of disorders that are linked to the endocrine glands. This includes diabetes, but can also involve treating children who are intersex or suffer from physical growth or sexual development problems.
Pediatric oncologists treat children up to 14 years of age who suffer from cancer.
This type of doctor focuses on treating young patients with some form of respiratory disease. Pediatric pulmonology includes the treatment of such conditions as pneumonia, asthma and tuberculosis.
Reasons for a Pediatrician Visit
Pediatricians are trained to treat child patients who suffer from a variety of conditions, such as:
- Allergies and asthma
- Celiac disease
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- A spectrum disorder or other developmental delays
- Hay fever
- Influenza and the common cold
- Other illness or injury
Services provided by pediatricians also include:
- Physical exams, especially those required prior to beginning school or athletics
- Routine wellness care
Stages of Growth
Pediatricians care for their patients from infancy all the way through early and middle childhood and into adolescence. Patients experience physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral growth during each of these stages and it is important for pediatricians to monitor these milestones.
A pediatrician can determine whether a baby suffers from physical defects during infancy. Doctors will also check infants for signs of normal growth and weight gain as well as physical milestones, such as the ability to hold their heads upright and the ability to smile. Infants will learn to make sounds and, after a few months, will learn to crawl and hold objects. During this time, children should receive regular wellness check-ups, as well as vaccinations.
At this stage, children can learn to walk and then run. They also begin to speak. Most children with autism are diagnosed during early childhood after failing to meet some of these milestones. Regular vaccinations continue during this stage.
As children grow, their speech patterns develop. During this stage they reach a new level of independence and can feed and dress themselves. There are additional vaccinations for children around the age of 5.
Aside from reaching puberty, adolescents will also undergo rapid cognitive development, especially in the areas of attention, memory, processing speed, organization and metacognition. Usually after the age of 18, patients will begin to see physicians who specialize in treating adults. Around 12 years of age, patients will receive the last of their vaccinations.