How to choose a paediatrician for your child

There are so many things to think about when it comes to looking after your baby’s health and well-being. Perhaps one of the most important things a mother needs to do is to choose a paediatrician.

After all, this is the doctor you will go to for all your little one’s health-related issues – from fevers and vaccinations to teething and nutrition.

Ideally, the relationship that you forge with this paediatrician will last from your child’s birth to adolescence.

Given this, it’s paramount that you choose a paediatrician who has you ticking all the boxes on your checklist. After all, this is your baby’s health we’re talking about.

The thought of searching for a suitable paediatrician may feel overwhelming at first, but with a little homework you will be able to find one that you trust and feel comfortable with.

What you need to know about paediatricians

Dr Mark Loh, Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist at Mark Loh Paediatrics, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, answers some commonly asked questions about the field of paediatric medicine.

What is the difference between a paediatrician and a general practitioner?

A paediatrician is a specialist doctor who sees only children and babies, and is thus experienced in diagnosing and managing various childhood illnesses, whether mild or severe.

The paediatrician is also well positioned to advise parents on infant nutrition, immunisations, growth and developmental norms, from the newborn period to adolescence.

There are general practitioners who are experienced with children in their practice too, but their time and experience is usually more divided amongst adults and elderly patients.

choosing a paediatrician

GPs are also a good choice when it comes to your child’s health

Does my child have to see a paediatrician whenever he falls sick?

It depends on the age of the child and how unwell he is. An experienced family physician will usually be able to manage most simple ailments in older children and toddlers.

Parents may choose to see a paediatrician if the child is very young (under 6 months), has other medical complications, or is very unwell and may possibly need inpatient care in a hospital setting

What are the common conditions that my GP can treat?

Most general practitioners or family physicians would have spent at least 6 months seeing children in a hospital setting in their training, and have children form up to 25% of their patient population.

Hence, they would be comfortable treating common childhood illness like colds, ear and throat infections, skin rashes, diarrhoea or minor injuries.

More importantly, they should know when any case is too complicated or when a child is very unwell so as to make an appropriate referral to a paediatrician or other specialist if warranted.

How do I know when my child’s illness warrants a visit to a paediatrician instead of a GP?  

Whom you bring your child to see really depends on how unwell your child is and on your relationship with the medical practitioner.

As a general guide, you may wish to see a paediatrician if the illness is prolonged or not responding to medications, and without an established diagnosis.

If your child is still a baby, has a very high fever or is looking listless and not feeding well, then visiting your paediatrician first would be a good idea.

choosing a paediatrician

Certain paediatricians may be specialists in specific areas of health

Are there different types of paediatricians?

There are paediatricians who sub-specialize in various systems of the body or different age groups, even though they should all have basic specialty training in managing children of all ages.

Common sub-specialties amongst paediatricians include Neonatology, Gastroenterology, Asthma and Allergy, Cardiology and Endocrinology.

  • Neonatologists specialize in the care of newborns, especially sick or premature babies who may need intensive care after birth, to optimize their start in life.
  • Paediatric gastroenterologists (bowel and nutritional diseases), cardiologists (congenital heart diseases), pulmonologists/allergists (asthma and allergies) and endocrinologists (diabetes, thyroid, growth and hormonal issues) all work together with the general paediatrician to identify and manage more complicated chronic diseases of childhood.

A multidisciplinary team approach is often useful in helping these children attain their growth and developmental potentials and fulfilling childhood.

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