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What is Paediatrics: Definition and Overview

Definition and Overview

Paediatrics is a branch of medicine that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of all types of health problems that affect young patients – from infants and children to adolescents.

The age limit for paediatric patients may vary, but is usually between 18 and 21 years of age, at which point the patient transitions to adult medical care.

Paediatrics, which focuses on all aspects of medical care that a child may need, recognises the myriads of differences between the medical concerns of young and old patients. The most important of these centers on the developing or growing bodies of paediatric patients. Since their bodies are smaller and enter into different stages of growth throughout the years, their medical needs also change drastically, even within a short span of time. In addition, several other factors come into play; for example, medical care for a newborn also involves checking and managing congenital defects, whereas caring for a toddler also involves identifying developmental issues that may cause potential health problems for the child. Another unique consideration is that paediatrics also involves guiding, educating, and sometimes correcting parents or guardians on proper childcare.

Paediatrics also take into consideration some special factors and additional limitations with regards to the safety and appropriateness of treatments that can be used. It is responsible not just for diagnosing and prescribing treatment but also for ensuring that the treatment prescribed is age-appropriate and safe for the immature physiology of young patients.

As a broad field, paediatrics is composed of several subfields, namely:

  • Neonatology
  • Critical care
  • Gastroenterology
  • Child neurology
  • Infectious disease
  • Haematology
  • Oncology
  • Rheumatology
  • Pulmonology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Child psychiatry
  • Paediatric dermatology
  • Rehabilitation medicine
  • Developmental behavior paediatrics
  • Allergy and immunology
  • Cardiology
  • Nephrology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Social paediatrics
  • Sports medicine
  • Paediatric surgery

A medical professional specialising in treating children is called a paediatrician, a doctor who has completed a medical degree followed by a three-year specialty training in areas such as in-patient and out-patient care as well as surgical and critical or intensive care, among others. Paediatricians have a wide range of responsibilities, including:

  • Providing general care to help maintain good health among young patients
  • Providing preventative care through routine check-ups
  • Examining newborns and developing toddlers to detect any health problems
  • Monitoring the child’s growth and development
  • Diagnosing diseases and prescribing treatment
  • Administering and supervising treatment
  • Monitoring chronic diseases
  • Administering immunizations

Paediatricians nowadays often work in hospitals, either in the clinic, surgery, or emergency department. However, they can also be found in private practices, paediatric centers, family health centers and children’s hospitals.

When Should You See a Paediatrician?

Parents should consult a paediatrician if their child:

  • Is showing unusual symptoms
  • Is ill for at least three days
  • Is scheduled for a routine check-up
  • Needs an update on his immunization
  • Has gotten into an accident and is injured
  • Seems really ill, which shows through major differences in his behavior, such as poor energy level, irritability, fussiness and constant crying

Unusual symptoms that should be brought to the paediatrician’s attention include:

  • A high fever that does not respond to paracetamol
  • A high fever that responds to medication but keeps on coming back for several days
  • A high fever that is over 100.4 degrees in an infant under three months
  • A low fever lasting more than three days
  • A high fever going over 105 degrees
  • A high fever accompanied by vomiting
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Abdominal pain, especially on the right side of the tummy, which could indicate appendicitis
  • Bloody vomit, urine or stool
  • Falls that cause visible swelling
  • Falls from a high position
  • Decreased urination accompanied by a lack of appetite and fever
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unusual skin rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Seizures

Children who experience vomiting and diarrhea also face an increased risk of dehydration, which can be life-threatening. Thus, even if the vomiting or diarrhea itself does not seem too serious, it is best to watch out for various signs of dehydration, such as:

  • Dry cracked lips
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Less frequent urination, which can be observed based on the number of wet diapers the baby consumes in a day
  • Not wetting a diaper for at least six hours straight
  • Weakness

The most common illnesses that are brought to a paediatrician’s attention include:


Reference:

  • American Academy of Paediatrics