Pediatrics is an independent field of medicine that studies the age-related features of children’s development, childhood illnesses, as well as the organization of care for a healthy and sick child. Initially, the subject of pediatrics was exclusively early childhood illnesses and their treatment. In the modern understanding, pediatrics covers various aspects related to the normal development and diseases of children at various age periods (from birth to puberty). These areas include physiology, hygiene, dietetics, childhood diseases, their treatment and prevention.
The goal of pediatrics is to preserve or restore (in case of illness) children’s health, to provide opportunities for the full physical, intellectual and emotional development of each child. The “chief physician” for childhood illnesses is a pediatrician. Like an adult therapist, a pediatrician is a universal pediatric specialist who can diagnose various childhood diseases and, if necessary, refer a child to a consultation with doctors of narrow areas: a pediatric neurologist, a pediatric dermatologist, a pediatric urologist, a pediatric gynecologist, a pediatric allergist-immunologist, a pediatric cardiologist, a pediatric endocrinologist, a pediatric gastroenterologist, a pediatric ophthalmologist, a pediatric otolaryngologist, a pediatric dentist, etc.
In childhood medicine, several directions are developing in parallel: preventive, clinical and social. The preventive direction includes the development and implementation of measures to prevent childhood illnesses; clinical – direct examination and treatment of a sick child; social – step-by-step rehabilitation and integration of children into society. Anatomical and physiological features of a growing organism determine the peculiarity of the course of those diseases that occur in childhood.
During the newborn period, children’s diseases are manifested due to disorders of intrauterine development (asphyxia, hemolytic fetal disease, intrauterine infections, congenital malformations, prematurity, hereditary syndromes, etc.), the pathological course of childbirth (cephalomatomas, birth tumor, clavicle fracture, etc.), as well as the increased sensitivity of infants to viral and coccal infection (omphalitis, vesiculopustulosis, pemphigus of newborns, etc.).
Infantile diseases of infancy are primarily associated with a high functional load on the digestive and respiratory systems. Among children’s diseases of infants, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (dyspepsia, dysentery, hypotrophy, colienteritis) and respiratory organs (viral and bacterial pneumonia) are often found. Errors in the feeding and daily routine of an infant can lead to the development of an exclusively childhood disease – rickets.
Among the diseases of early childhood and preschool age, infections prevail: measles, whooping cough, chickenpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis. This is due to the imperfection of the child’s immune system, as well as the expansion of children’s contacts with others and peers. Also during these age periods, the number of infectious and allergic childhood diseases increases: bronchial asthma, rheumatism, eczema, glomerulonephritis, etc.
Younger schoolchildren are more likely to face acute infections, endocrine disorders, diseases of the nervous system and heart. In adolescence, the structure of childhood diseases is dominated by disorders of the function of the endocrine glands, disorders of sexual development, vascular dystonia, psychoneurosis, etc.
The most common symptoms of childhood diseases are rash, enlarged lymph nodes, hyperthermia, runny nose, cough, vomiting, abdominal pain, convulsions. If these and other signs of the disease appear, it is necessary to consult the child with a pediatrician. Every parent should be familiar with the basics of pediatrics, know the main childhood diseases and their manifestations in order to be able to assess the severity of the baby’s condition, determine whether the malaise poses an immediate threat to life.
Pediatrics does not stand still: new methods of diagnosis and treatment of childhood diseases appear and are being introduced, understanding of the mechanisms of disease development in children is developing and deepening. The successes of modern pediatrics have forced many once fatal childhood diseases to retreat. This was facilitated by the creation of vaccines against a number of children’s infectious diseases, the development of balanced artificial mixtures, the emergence of modern antibacterial drugs, improving the quality of diagnosis and treatment of children. Nevertheless, the level of childhood morbidity remains high; diseases that were previously considered exclusively the lot of mature people have significantly “rejuvenated”. Among children’s diseases, cardiovascular, endocrine, neurological diseases, neoplasms, pathology of the musculoskeletal system are increasingly common.
A child is not just a small copy of an adult. The child’s body is in a state of continuous development, has a number of anatomical and physiological features, physical and emotional immaturity, which determines the specifics of the course of childhood diseases. The development of childhood diseases is always unpredictable: even a banal runny nose in a child can become fatal if its causes are not recognized in time, the correct etiopathogenetic treatment is not selected, the supervision of a specialist is not organized. At the same time, due to the high compensatory capabilities of the child’s body, many diseases that cause chronic pathology or disability in adults can be successfully cured in children.
The origins of many adult diseases come from childhood. Therefore, the state of health of an adult is largely determined by the conditions of growth and development of a little man, taking care of his health at the very beginning of life. Today, the emphasis in pediatric medicine is shifting towards disease prevention, which includes antenatal protection of the fetus, prevention of birth injuries, organization of careful care for the newborn (ensuring optimal nutrition, sleep and wakefulness, hardening), timely vaccination of children according to the national calendar of preventive vaccinations, screening programs to identify hereditary pathology, patronage and dispensary supervision. Taking care of children’s health and prevention of childhood diseases is a priority component of state policy.
Specialized assistance in the children’s healthcare system is provided in children’s polyclinics and hospitals, pediatric departments of multidisciplinary medical centers, private children’s clinics. It is impossible and ineffective to treat children’s diseases with “adult” methods, therefore, in recent years, narrow pediatric areas have been distinguished in pediatrics: pediatric cardiac surgery, pediatric traumatology and orthopedics, pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric hematology and oncology, pediatric anesthesiology and resuscitation, etc. The most important components of success in the treatment of children’s diseases are a professional approach, the use of high-tech methods of diagnosis and treatment, a trusting relationship between a doctor, parents and a child.