A paediatrician is a medical doctor with special training and skills in the conditions and illnesses that affect the health, growth 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 learning. They also understand how different illnesses and conditions relate to each other.
Some paediatricians specialise in areas like neonatology (treatment of newborn babies), cardiology (heart problems) or development and behaviour.
If your child has health or development concerns, health professionals like paediatricians are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
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, growth 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
- autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- 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 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: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a paediatrician.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment or will the GP make it for you?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the paediatrician?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment – for example, can your child start some treatment or therapy?
- 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 another agency.
- 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.