A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the health of children, including physical, behavioral, and mental health issues, and who typically serves as a child’s primary care physician. MediFind can help you find a top pediatrician near you who is an expert in specific health conditions.
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the health of children, including physical, behavioral, and mental health issues. They diagnose and treat childhood illnesses, from minor issues to serious diseases. Pediatricians typically see patients up to age 18, though sometimes through age 21.
At minimum, a pediatrician:
Pediatricians act as primary care physicians (PCP) for children. Primary care physicians are responsible for ongoing healthcare monitoring and maintenance, and are the first line of treatment. If new symptoms arise (unless it’s an emergency, in which case call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room), the pediatrician should be the first person to call. They can help you decide what to do next. A pediatrician will either treat your child themselves, or refer you to another doctor or healthcare provider for more specialized care.
It is generally recommended that parents choose a pediatrician before their baby has been born. This helps ensure the newborns get the appropriate check-ups and care in the critical period immediately after birth. It also gives you the opportunity to interview a variety of pediatricians to find the best fit for your family.
A pediatrician is responsible for the general healthcare of your child through age 18-21. Your child will see a pediatrician many times over their lifetime.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies get checkups at birth, 3 to 5 days after birth and then at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months. After that, your child will generally see the pediatrician once a year. This annual exam is usually called a “physical” or “well-child visit.”
During these visits, your pediatrician will give any vaccines that are due, check your child’s growth and development, and test hearing and vision beginning at age 4.
Specifically, a pediatrician:
If your pediatrician believes your child may have a developmental, learning, or behavioral problem, they may refer you and your child to a developmental pediatrician.
A developmental pediatrician (or “developmental-behavioral pediatrician”) is a pediatrician with additional training in developmental, learning, or behavioral issues in children. In the United States, developmental-behavioral pediatricians must be certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, in addition to meeting all the requirements for a general pediatrician.
Developmental-behavioral pediatricians can help manage:
A few things to consider when choosing a pediatrician include:
Ultimately, the right pediatrician for your family comes down to personal choice. It’s helpful to interview a variety of pediatricians to find the doctor and office that best matches your needs.
If you’re pregnant, it’s recommended that you begin to search for a pediatrician about three months before your baby is due. This helps make sure that you have time to meet with different pediatricians, and that you have time to choose one before your baby is born.
You can search MediFind.com or explore the list below to find top pediatricians near you. While many people use online patient rating services such as Yelp, Healthgrades, or ZocDoc to select their primary care doctor, this recent study concludes that there is in fact no relationship between online ratings and physician quality.
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You should always feel comfortable calling your pediatrician. If you’re on the fence about calling, just go ahead and do so. No issue is too small.
There are a few times when it’s even more important to call your pediatrician:
If your child has serious or life-threatening symptoms, you should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room, and alert your pediatrician.
The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a firm limit on how old a child may be when seeing a pediatrician, because this depends on an individual child’s physical and mental needs. But typically, pediatricians see patients up to age 18, though sometimes they will continue seeing kids through age 21.
As children get older, it’s helpful to check in on their preferences. Many kids have changing comfort levels as they start puberty and reach the teen years. For example, children often begin to prefer to see a doctor of the same gender as their own.
In addition, many girls will begin to see an OB/GYN in their early-mid teen years. An OB/GYN often serves as the primary care physician instead of a pediatrician as girls get older.
As they reach their late teens, some children find comfort in the familiar, and wish to keep seeing their pediatricians for as long as possible, while others are ready to move on to a physician who treats adults (such as an Internal Medicine physician).
Annual exams (or “well-child visits”) happen once a year for kids aged 2-18. Most health insurance plans fully cover these visits, so that you pay nothing out-of-pocket unless your doctor recommends further diagnostic tests or procedures. But be sure to check with your insurance provider about your specific plan.