A paediatrician is a medical doctor with special training and skills in the diseases and illnesses that affect the health and development of babies, children and teenagers.
Paediatricians know a lot about the many different conditions and illnesses that can affect children's health, welfare, behaviour and education. They also understand how different illnesses and conditions relate to each other.
Some paediatricians do general training. Others do specialised training in areas like neonatology (treatment of newborn babies), cardiology (heart problems) or development and behaviour.
Why your child might see a paediatrician
Your child might see a paediatrician if your GP wants a specialist opinion about your child's health and development, or thinks your child needs specialised care and treatment.
For example, your GP might refer your child to a paediatrician for further assessment and treatment of:
- asthma and allergies
- poor growth
- behaviour problems
- developmental delay
- sleep problems
- brain conditions - for example, epilepsy
- problems with muscles or bones - for example, developmental dysplasia of the hip or bow legs
- disabilities like Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or Fragile X syndrome
- faecal incontinence (encopresis) or constipation.
A paediatrician might also see your baby immediately after birth, to make sure everything is OK.To see a paediatrician, you'll need a referral from your GP. Your GP is always a good place to start if you're worried about your child's health or development. Your GP can help you decide about seeing a paediatrician and help you find someone who's right for your child.
Before going to a paediatrician
If your GP refers your child to a paediatrician, it's a good idea to talk with your GP about the following things:
- Why you're going to the paediatrician: talk with your GP about why your child needs a referral to a paediatrician.
- Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the paediatrician?
- Is there anything you can do while you're waiting to get an appointment?
- Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the paediatrician cost? It's a good idea to check whether you can get money back from Medicare or whether you can get some other kind of financial help.
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the paediatrician - for example, a public or private hospital, community health centre or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child's needs.
You could also ask about these things when you make the appointment with the paediatrician's clinic. It's a good idea to write down your questions, so you don't forget.If you're seeing a paediatrician in a specialist clinic in a public hospital or community health centre, there are usually no extra costs. But if you're referred to a private paediatrician, Medicare might not cover the whole cost of the appointment. This means you'll have to pay any extra cost. Private health insurance doesn't usually cover specialist appointments.