Both pediatricians and pediatric specialists focus on children. But a pediatric specialist is a doctor with extra training and knowledge about one particular area of kids' health.
A pediatric specialist differs from specialists who treat adults because children's growing bodies are very different from fully grown and possibly aging bodies. These doctors train for many years to understand those differences.
You may want to see a pediatric specialist if your child has a rare medical condition, a chronic illness, developmental delays, or a disability.
Who They Are
To become a specialist, these doctors typically spend 4 years in medical school, complete a 3-year residency, spend another 2 or 3 years in fellowship training, and then take an exam to become board certified as a specialist.
Often, your pediatrician will refer to you a qualified nearby specialist for your child when it makes sense.
You'll find pediatric specialists working in children's hospitals, university medical centers, large hospitals, and private practices.
Types of Pediatric Specialists
These are some of the many kinds of pediatric specialists a child might need.
Neonatologist: Trained to handle complicated and high-risk health situations in delicate newborns and infants, including a baby who has a health issue while in the womb or is born early or with a birth defect.
Pediatric allergist: Helps prevent allergic reactions from mold to bees to food and more, which could result in asthma, a rash, or dangerous anaphylaxis.
Pediatric cardiologist: Diagnoses and treats heart conditions in children, including congenital heart disease and abnormal heart rhythms.
Pediatric endocrinologist: Treats anything related to hormones, such as diabetes or an issue around proper growth.
Pediatric gastroenterologist: For issues with digestion or gut health, such as nutritional problems, belly pain, acid reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Child neurologist: Deals with brain and nervous system issues, including seizures, brain tumors, and migraines.
Pediatric oncologist: Works with children who are diagnosed with cancer.
Pediatric emergency doctor: Found in emergency rooms, managing the care of children and teenagers who are very sick or badly injured.
Your First Appointment
Unless a child's health situation is urgent, you may have to wait weeks or months for an appointment.
When the time arrives, expect it to take a while. The pediatric specialist will talk at length with you and your child about your concerns. They'll review the child's medical history and any lab results. They may order tests to help diagnose or treat your child.