What pediatricians treat

A pediatrician doctor monitors a child's development, from birth to adulthood, and tends to normal, everyday illnesses, such as ear infections, while also providing support to parents to keep kids well.

If a primary care pediatrician encounters medical problems that are beyond his or her expertise, that doctor will typically refer the child to a pediatric specialist. An example is a pediatric endocrinologist.

Pediatricians also help prevent debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases by administering vaccines and inoculations against diseases, such as smallpox, measles and mumps.

Seeing a primary care pediatrician

Typically, a primary care pediatrician first examines a child shortly after birth and again a few days to a week later. Children should also have regular well-child visits. You should schedule infants and children for well-child visits roughly every three months during the first year and a half of life and once a year every year after that.

During these check-ups, a pediatrician can monitor the child's growth and development to ensure it's on track. The doctor measures the child's height, weight and head circumference to determine if the child is reaching important milestones. If the doctor has any concerns about a child's physical or sexual development throughout any stage of their infancy, adolescence or their teen years, they physician may refer them to a pediatric endocrinologist. Well-child visits also provide an excellent opportunity for you to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have to get the doctor's advice on everything from feeding a baby to how much sleep your child should get.

You should also call your pediatrician when your child falls ill. Generally, pediatricians recommend bringing children to the office when symptoms such as a high fever, vomiting or diarrhea are present for more than a day or two. You should have your child's pediatrician check out such things as rashes and ear pain.

If you suspect any problem with your child's health, contact your pediatrician as soon as you can. Even some behavior changes, such as uncharacteristic irritability, can indicate that most children need to see their pediatrician.

Finding the best pediatric care

Your search for the right pediatrician should start well before your child is even born. You should choose and meet with your child's future pediatrician shortly before your due date, which will give you a chance to discuss your child's care and ask any questions.

Start by asking your hospital staff, general practitioner or obstetrician for recommendations on reputable pediatricians. Contact your health insurance company to check your coverage. Read through the listing of pediatricians in the provider directory available from your health insurance company. Carefully research the pediatricians you are considering. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings. 

Pediatricians are board certified through the American Board of Pediatrics, which you can check online here. Although many parents simply assume that most pediatricians are licensed to practice, you should double-check by referring to Angie's List online medical licensing database.

Almost nothing matters more than your own gut feelings and personal experiences with pediatricians. A good pediatrician should take the time to answer questions, address parental concerns and give advice when it's needed. They should never ignore your concerns, nor should they seem irritated when you ask several questions. Above all, both you and your child should feel comfortable with your pediatrician.

Pediatric urology

Pediatric urologists treat children suffering from conditions including kidney stones, kidney infections, bladder problems, genital abnormalities and malformations of the urinary tract.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Urology

Pediatric general surgery

Your family doctor or pediatrician may refer your child to a pediatric surgeon in cases where surgery is needed to treat an illness. Common type of pediatric general surgery include minimally invasive procedures to remove tumors and obstructions, biopsies and repairs to congenital defects.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric General Surgery

Pediatric thoracic surgery

Doctors who specialize in pediatric thoracic surgery perform operations to treat conditions within the structure of the chest wall, including the lungs, esophagus and diaphragm. Children who suffer from pneumonia and develop complications as a result may be referred to a pediatric thoracic surgeon.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Thoracic Surgery

Pediatric rheumatology

Pediatric rheumatologists treat children with illnesses including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus and Lyme disease. Pediatricians may refer children to a pediatric rheumatologist if they have symptoms of rheumatic disease including fever, skin rashes, swollen lymph nodes and painful, swollen joints.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Rheumatology

Pediatric oncology

Pediatric oncologists focus on diagnosing and treating cancers in children, typically those under age 18. They treat common childhood cancers including leukemia and lymphoma, as well as genetic blood disorders and embryonic tumors.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Oncology

Pediatric radiology

A pediatrician may refer a child to a pediatric radiologist to help make an accurate diagnosis using imaging tools including X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans. Radiologists are trained to help diagnose illnesses and injuries based on the results of imaging tests.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Radiology

Pediatric kidney care

Children experiencing kidney problems are typically referred to pediatric nephrologists, who are trained to diagnose illnesses that cause the kidneys to stop working or function improperly. Pediatric kidney problems can be acute or chronic, and typical symptoms include high blood pressure along with painful, frequent or infrequent urination.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Kidney Care

Pediatric pulmonology

Pediatric pulmonologists specialize in treating children with lung problems and chronic respiratory diseases. Common illnesses treated by pediatric lung doctors include asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis and respiratory synctial virus (RSV).

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Pulmonology

Pediatric sports medicine

Children who are active in sports, particularly in school or age-group leagues, are at risk for injury. Family doctors and pediatricians may refer children to sports medicine specialists for common injuries and illnesses including heat stroke, stress fractures, sprains, strains, ligament injuries, dislocated joints, nerve damage and minor fractures.

RELATED: Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Sports Medicine

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