A pediatrician is a children’s physician, providing preventive health maintenance for healthy children and medical care for children who have acute or chronic illness. A pediatrician can serve as primary care physician (PCP) to manage the physical, mental and emotional development of infants, children, adolescents and young adults up to age 21.
Pediatric Physicians for Primary Care
In addition to providing all recommended vaccinations, regular check-ups and well-child visits, pediatricians can diagnose and treat a range of medical concerns:
Acute Illness or Injury
A pediatrician can treat acute illness and non-emergency injuries, including:
- Sprains, bumps, cuts and bruises are frequent in a child’s life and are a normal part of being a kid. However, even minor injuries can require proper diagnosis and treatment. Sprains can be painful and cause significant swelling. Cuts and lacerations need medical care and stitches to prevent infection.
- Cough, cold/flu, fever and sore throat are among the most common reasons that parents bring their children to a pediatrician. Children under the age of seven have immature immune systems that aren’t strong enough to fight off infections. Their upper airways aren’t fully developed and are also more vulnerable to the bacteria and viruses responsible for making them sick.
- Ear Infections are another common childhood concern. Children are particularly susceptible to ear infections because the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat can be angled horizontally. This position causes fluid to collect, leading to infections. Ear pain, fever, loss of hearing or fluid leaking from the ear can all be symptoms of an ear infection. As children grow, the tube shifts to a more vertical position, lowering chances for infection.
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting can be symptoms of the flu or food poisoning, or can occur on their own. Diarrhea and vomiting often occur with fever, nausea or cramps, and can quickly lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Proper precautions need to be taken to keep a child properly hydrated during bouts of diarrhea or vomiting.
- Having head lice is a contagious infestation of the head louse in human hair. The tiny insects feed off blood drawn from the scalp and their bites can cause itching or skin irritation. Although harmless, head lice can be difficult to get rid of.
- Pneumonia is a term for lung infections caused by any number of germs. It often starts as an infection in the nose and throat before it moves to the lungs. Fluid builds up in airways, which can cause breathing difficulty, chest pain, cough and fatigue among other symptoms.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is rare but can be life-threatening. Viral meningitis is more common and far less serious. Although people of any age can get meningitis, it’s most common in teens and young adults because it’s easily spread among people living in close quarters. Symptoms can vary depending on the age of the individual and cause of infection, with common symptoms including fever, headaches and lethargy. Routine immunization plays an important role toward preventing meningitis.
Chickenpox used to be a common childhood illness until the varicella vaccine helped to curb the disease. For un-vaccinated children, chickenpox is highly contagious. It shows up as an itchy rash of spots all over the body accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Getting the vaccine greatly reduces a child’s chances of catching chickenpox, and vaccinated children who do get it have much milder cases.
Most common in adolescents and young adults, mononucleosis (or mono) is sometimes called the kissing disease. It’s transmitted through saliva and can be contracted through kissing, a cough or sneeze, or sharing utensils. Symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, fever, headache and enlarged spleen. In extreme cases, the spleen can rupture, causing sharp sudden pain that requires immediate medical attention.
Emotional and Mental Health
There are many factors that can affect a child or adolescent’s emotional wellbeing. A child may have difficulty coping with developmental changes or problems in their lives, and may experience feelings or exhibit behaviors that are unusual for them. Problems sleeping, disordered eating, frequent conflict with friends or family, sudden changes in behavior, signs of depression or drug and alcohol use can all signify a deeper issue.
The Best Care for Your Child
Childhood and adolescence encompasses a time of growth and change. The majority of medical concerns affecting children under the age of 21 can be treated effectively with the proper medical care. For many children, having a pediatrician as their primary care physician during these years helps to ensure their healthy development over the course of their infancy, childhood and young adulthood.