There are many differences between children and adults, which is why you’ll need to find a doctor specializing in pediatrics for your child. But at what age should you start visiting a pediatric physician with your child, and when do they need to switch to adult medicine? Here at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA, we offer care for people of all ages, and our professionals will be able to tell you more about your child’s medical needs.
Although every person is different, you will notice seven distinct developmental stages. After the neonatal phase, your child will go through infancy, the toddler stage, then early and middle childhood. By the time they are 12, they will be an adolescent, but they won’t be considered fully adult until they are 21. In most cases, your child can switch to an adult physician after the age of 18.
What Is Pediatrics?
Babies, children, and teenagers aren’t simply little adults. In fact, they have their own health issues, and sometimes, medicine that works well on adults can be detrimental to a growing body. For this reason, there is a branch of medicine specific to young patients. A pediatric doctor works with people whose bodies and minds are still developing, helping parents to keep their offspring safe and healthy through the important early years of life.
Pediatric Age Ranges
If you have a child, you may be wondering how long you should see a pediatric doctor and when you should switch your child to adult medicine. You might also be curious about how the various age ranges differ and what you need to look out for as your child grows. There are many different ways of classifying children, but in general, we distinguish between seven different stages, ranging from the time your baby is born to the age of 21.
Each of these offers its own challenges, so it’s important that you be aware of the most important characteristic of your child’s current phase. Although most pediatric physicians and nurses are trained to work with children and teens of all ages, you might need to see a specialist if something very specific comes up. Your child’s health care team will be able to tell you more when you visit the clinic.
The first 27 days are crucial to the development of your baby, and children are very different at this stage. If your baby was born prematurely, the neonatal stage might last longer, as any time before the due date isn’t generally counted. At this time, your baby is adjusting to the world and establishing feeding patterns. Both parents will also start to bond with him or her.
Many birth or congenital defects become apparent during this phase, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on your child. During the first month of life, your baby is also more susceptible to infections that could become serious later on. For this reason, you should have the details of your clinic at hand. If you have any concerns about your neonatal child, this can be very distressing. Don’t hesitate to give us a call and speak to one of our professionals.
Your child will be considered an infant from the age of one month to one year. During this exciting stage, you will notice many developmental steps, starting with smiling, raising their head, and gripping objects. By the end of the phase, the child can most likely crawl, stand, say a few words, and play games with you or siblings.
Infancy is a fascinating time because so many big changes occur, but most children will become sick several times during this first year. They might have a simple cold, some skin problems such as diaper rash, or infections. In some cases, more serious illnesses like bronchitis can occur, so you will need to remain vigilant for the duration of this year. Again, it’s important to speak to your doctor when you feel that your child is unwell and not getting better.
Between the age of 1-2, your baby is turning into a child. During this toddler phase, they will start talking and gain more mobility. While physical growth and motor development won’t be as rapid as before, you’ll still be able to witness many changes in your child. In particular, they will develop emotional awareness, greater intelligence, and social connections.
You will still have to be vigilant about illnesses and infections, but toddlers are more likely to get injured than have serious health complications from sickness. This is because they are starting to move around on their own more, so they are susceptible to falling or running into objects. If your toddler has been injured, you should take them to your clinic to be examined, as the doctors will be able to make sure that there is no serious damage.
From the ages of 2-5, we go through early childhood. Your child will experience a lot of physical, social, and emotional changes as their brain grows to almost 90% of its adult size. By the end of the stage, they will have good hand-eye coordination and they will be able to speak well. You might also be able to start teaching them to read and write in the latter half of this stage.
This age is often when we first have extensive contact with other people, such as through playgroups and kindergarten. Because of the increased socializing, your child may pick up illnesses like the flu more frequently. Our doctors specializing in pediatrics can tell you how to manage mild issues at home, and you can visit us if you have more serious concerns.
Children aged 6-11 are considered to be in middle childhood. They will be in primary school, learning more about themselves and the world around them. Some children may already start puberty in the latter years of this stage, but others won’t reach this until some years later. Friendships with peers and a separation from parents become more important.
Most children don’t have significant health problems during these years, but if your child has autism, ADHD, or mental health challenges, this may become more pronounced and noticeable, particularly in a school setting. You may need to work closely with your clinic to manage symptoms and help your child to develop to their full potential. Injuries and mild illnesses remain common at this stage.
Adolescence begins at age 12 for most children, and the teenage phase won’t end until they are 18 years old. Your teenager will start to find their own identity, reach sexual maturity, and deepen their connection to their peers. Interacting with people of the same age group is crucial for adolescent children, and they will separate more and more from their parents and caregivers.
If your child has special needs, you will need to continue working closely with your clinic to monitor the situation. In addition to illnesses and injuries associated with sports, your teen might need help with their sexual health and wellbeing. Topics like drugs, eating disorders, and mood changes should be discussed frequently, and many adolescent children can benefit from mental health services such as counseling.
From 18-21, your child is seen as an adult, but they will still be developing. During this stage, young people are forming adult relationships with their parents, separating from caregivers, and starting to have a greater level of foresight and abstract thought.
In most cases, pediatric care ends at age 18, and your child will start to see a general physician at that time. Here at the clinic, we treat children in the pediatrics department until the age of 18, then refer them to our adult medicine center.
Finding a Great Pediatrician for Your Child
Now that you know why pediatric medicine is such an important field and for what reasons you may need to see a doctor at your child’s various developmental stages, you may wonder how to find the best one. What qualifications does your physician need? What should you look out for when you first visit the clinic and meet your new doctor? Let’s go over some of the most important traits of a great clinic.
Before entrusting your child’s health and life to your doctor, make sure they have the relevant qualifications. If they work at a big institution or a well-known clinic, it’s likely that they are well-qualified and have been vetted before being employed. However, it’s still worth speaking to your pediatric doctor about what field of medicine they are qualified in and what their level of experience is. A competent doctor will be able to answer all of your questions.
Experience Working with the Age Group
Maybe even more crucial than excellent qualifications is the amount of experience your physician has. While newer doctors can be just as good, you will feel reassured knowing that you’re taking your child to a clinic where there are many seasoned staff members around to help. This is particularly true during the delicate early years when your child is not yet capable of clearly communicating with you.
When you visit the clinic, feel free to speak to your doctor or nurse about their experience working with your child’s phase and age group. They will be happy to tell you more, and you may even pick up some new information and tips on how to best take care of your child.
Children are very impressionable, and the way your doctor treats them will likely stay with them for the rest of their lives. By choosing a professional who displays compassion and a willingness to engage with your child, you can make the experience much easier for them and avoid any trauma that could cause issues in the future. Visiting your pediatric doctor should be a positive and interesting experience for your child, not something to be afraid of.
Schedule Your Consultation Now
Children go through many different stages while they’re growing up, starting with the delicate neonatal phase and ending with late adolescence. Each one brings its own health concerns, which is why you should find a doctor specializing in pediatrics to guide you through the process. Most pediatric clinics will treat young patients until the age of 18, although people aren’t considered fully grown until they turn 21.
No matter what stage your child is currently at, you should find a good clinic so that you’ll know where to go if an emergency arises. You could even come in for a visit and to do a wellness exam, as this could help your child to get used to the clinic. To book your appointment, contact us at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA. We will be happy to answer all of your questions and welcome your child to the center.