Children are not little adults; they are different people. This is the cornerstone of the field of paediatrics, whose physicians are specialists in infant and child medicine.
Babies and children, by virtue of their age, are constantly growing and developing. Their physiology, anatomy and biochemistry are very different from that of adults. In fact, every organ and system of a child is in a state of evolution as the body matures into adolescence.
A large portion of this growth and evolution depends on how the body’s genetic code unfolds. Genes provide every infant with a template that determines his / her biological characteristics, predispositions and consequently overall state of heath. However, genes blend with the child’s experiences during the course of growth and make for his / her uniqueness.
But the genetic code doesn’t always confer a state of adequate health. Sometimes, inbuilt into the code are congenital defects, disorders and deficiencies, with different ones manifesting themselves at different stages. These disorders, such as neurological disorders, must be detected early in the interest of effective diagnosis, treatment and management.
Even when not serious, the genetic code of some children predisposes them to certain weaknesses such as allergies. But these predispositions too can be easily detected with the help of various diagnostic tests. After that, a paediatrician can offer advice on how to strengthen, boost and manage weak areas.
One of the most important systems that develops from the moment a baby is born is the immune system. Immunity is a natural shield against disease and much of our body’s ability to protect itself against pathogens and germs has its roots in infancy. Did you know that immunity is greatly influenced by patterns of breastfeeding?
Also, to boost immunity, infants and children need to be vaccinated against certain infectious diseases such as small pox, measles, mumps, diphtheria and whooping cough. These are serious diseases that could prove fatal if parents fail to vaccinate their infants.
However, disease and illness are part and parcel of childhood. They are almost a rite of passage! Barring those that you may vaccinate your child against, children are bound to fall ill from time to time. These illnesses range from the common cold to allergies & asthma to various types of skin rashes to serious infectious diseases such as measles.
Apart from checking for signs and symptoms of disease, it is also important to pay attention to your child’s developmental milestones as he / she grows as these general growth markers indicate whether your child’s development is on course. Regular paediatric check-ups are also recommended as this offers an expert’s opinion on whether there are issues or conditions that may need medical intervention.
In this section, we’ll walk you through some important paediatric issues so that as a parent, you are familiar with the whys and wherefores of basic infant and child care.