Child Health Experts
Children have different health care needs than adults – both medical and emotional. In choosing a pediatrician, you can know that your child is being treated by an expert in children’s health. Pediatricians are trained to prevent and manage health problems in infants, children, teens, and young adults. Older patients trust their pediatrician, because they have known one another for many years.
To become a pediatrician, a physician must first complete college, earning his/her Bachelor’s degree, then four additional years of medical school, earning a Doctorate in Medicine. After that, the doctor completes 3 or more years of specialty training in pediatrics. This training period after medical school is called residency. After residency, a doctor usually takes a long, detailed test given by the American Board of Pediatrics. After passing the test, the doctor is a board-certified pediatrician. He or she gets a certificate that you may see displayed at the office. The doctor can then become a Fellow (or member) of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP). All of this background prepares your pediatrician to manage your child’s total health care needs, including:
- Growth and development
- Physical fitness
Your pediatrician will also work with you on other issues, such as:
- Emotional or family problems
- Learning and other school problems
- Preventing and dealing with drug abuse
- Puberty and other teen issues
Pediatricians also work with teachers and other adults in child care centers, schools, and after-school programs. If your child has a very special or complex problem, your pediatrician can refer him or her to another specialist for further help, if needed.
As your child grows
Your pediatrician can continue to be an important resource not only for illness or injury care, but for all sorts of health advice, including:
- Being too thin or too heavy
- Emotional and behavioral problems
- Helping children cope with issues like divorce and death
- School or learning problems
- Family problems
Your pediatrician can respond to your teen’s special needs and can offer advice and counseling on:
- Body changes during puberty
- Growth and hygiene
- Coping and being happy with oneself and with others
- Substance abuse
- Dating and sexual issues
- Eating disorders
- Birth control
- Violence and related problems
When to call the pediatrician
You should always feel free to call your pediatrician’s office, either during office hours for routine questions or at any time for an emergency. Call right away if you are worried about your child. Sometimes a parent feels there is a problem before symptoms actually show up. Always call and get proper medical advice. Realize, though, that sometimes your pediatrician may not be able to answer your questions without seeing your child first. When you are not sure whether to call, trust your instincts. Follow these suggestions to be sure the phone is beneficial for both you and your pediatrician.
Make the most of the phone.
Your pediatrician may prefer that you call with general questions during office hours. Before you call, have a pen and paper ready to write down any instructions and questions. You could easily forget some details, especially when you are worried about your child. Be ready to gather information about your child’s health.
Take your child’s temperature.
If your child has a fever, write down the temperature, the time you took it, and how (orally, rectally, ancillary).
Remind the doctor about past medical problems.
Do not expect your pediatrician to always remember your child’s medical condition. He or she cares for many children each day and may not remember that your child has asthma, seizures, or some other condition.
Be sure to mention medications.
If your child is taking prescription medication or a nonprescription drug, tell your pediatrician.
Keep immunization records at hand.
These are especially helpful if your child has an injury that may require a tetanus shot or if pertussis (whooping cough) is in your community.
If possible, have your child near the phone when you call your pediatrician. An older child may be able to tell you where it hurts, and you will not have to go to another room for an answer about a rash, fever, or cut.
(Adapted from American Academy of Pediatrics)