What is a pediatrician?
Pediatricians play a key role in your child’s healthcare.
A pediatrician is a specialized physician trained to take care of your child’s physical, mental, and emotional health starting at birth until the age of 18, or sometimes older.
A pediatrician near you can complete “well child visits” and annual physicals, manage and treat any health conditions, and make sure your child is hitting all of their behavioral and physical milestones.
Pediatricians can perform the following procedures on babies and children:
- scheduled vaccines (immunizations)
- minor repairs for cuts, scrapes, wounds, and other lacerations
- blood draws
- applying a temporary splint on a sprained joint or injured bone
- setting dislocated joints back into place
- cutting into and draining abscesses
- removing objects that have gotten in your child's body, such as splinters or fish hooks
- lumbar puncture to collect spinal fluids for diagnostic tests
- intravenous catheterization
- bladder catheterization
- endotracheal intubation
- bag-mask ventilation
There are procedures that pediatricians are required to know based on guidelines from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
Some pediatrician's offices may not be equipped to perform all of the procedures listed above. Contact your local pediatrician for a more comprehensive list of the procedures that your pediatrician can perform.
Pediatricians diagnose and in some cases treat the following conditions:
- ear, nose, throat, and neck conditions like ear infections and strep throat (otolaryngology)
- allergies to food like nuts and fish or allergens in the environment like pollen or chemicals, as well as immune system disorders (allergy, asthma, immunology)
- behaviors that may be considered disruptive to daily life resulting from social, emotional, or cognitive causes, such as ADD, ADHD, or autism spectrum disorder
- digestive conditions that may make it hard for your child to eat or pass waste (gastroenterology)
- physical or cognitive conditions that affect your child's ability to speak (speech-language pathology)
- hearing difficulties either present when your child is born or caused by injuries (audiology)
- conditions that make it difficult for your child to walk, talk, or perform basic daily activities (rehabilitative medicine or physical and occupational therapy)
- complications that happen when your child is born too early (neonatology)
- heart conditions present when your child is born or that develop throughout childhood (cardiology)
- brain or nervous system disorders (neurology)
- cancers that develop during childhood (oncology)
This list isn't exhaustive — pediatricians may specialize in a wide variety of conditions because their primary focus is on the holistic health of your child.
Get in touch with your local pediatrician to learn more about what conditions they can treat or specialize in.
Top questions to ask a pediatrician during your or your child’s appointment that you may have not thought of:
- How long have you been treating children? When did you start your practice?
- What philosophy guides your approach to treating children? What are your beliefs about circumcision, vaccination, holistic medicine, or discipline?
- Are there other doctors or pediatricians in your practice? Who covers for you when you're away or on vacation? Do you have any nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, or nurses who can help me?
- How long can I expect my child's check-ups to last?
- Are there any other specialists in your practice that can help my child, too?
- When is your office open? Can you do same-day emergency visits? Do you have emergency hours or contact information for any urgent conditions or symptoms my child may have?
- Do I need to call first and verify that it's an emergency with one of your staff?
- Are you able to come to my home for a medical visit if I or my child can't travel? Or do you offer virtual visits?
- Will my child's condition or treatment impact their lifestyle?
- Are there any lifestyle changes that I or my child can make to help with their symptoms or condition?
Taking care of a child's medical needs may require skills distinct from those of a general physician.
Finding the right pediatrician means finding someone who can address your child's medical needs while also treating your child with patience, empathy, and respect.
Pediatricians also need to take into consideration other factors in the child's life that may be contributing to their conditions or behaviors. Keep this in mind when you choose your pediatrician.