Getting the required medical expertise is crucial if a parent worries about their child’s respiratory health and thinks they have a chronic lung condition. A pediatric pulmonologist should be consulted for a definite diagnosis in children under the age of 21. But what is a pediatric pulmonologist, and why is it pivotal for your child’s health?
What Is a Pediatric Pulmonologist?
A doctor that has studied intensively about breathing and lung problems in children is known as a pediatric pulmonologist. They can assist your child and your family in managing symptoms of breathing problems, preventing any possible complications, and improvement of the quality of life. A pediatric pulmonologist will briefly re-evaluate your child’s lung health, diagnose the cause of the breathing problem, and augment a treatment plan.
What Does a Pediatric Pulmonologist Do?
A pulmonologist studies issues and irregularities that occur in the human respiratory system. Similarly, pediatric pulmonologists are exclusively trained to identify, manage and treat lung problems in children. While numerous people associate pulmonologists with asthma solely, they can deal with multiple lung conditions and issues. They diagnose, monitor, and treat children and individuals under 21 who experience the following problems.
- Spontaneous tightness in the chest during regular activities.
- Troubled breathing when you encounter allergens.
- Chronic respiratory infections.
- Breathing problems related.
- Sleep apnea or frequent apnea.
- Whirring chest sounds.
- Loud breathing.
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Exercise-induced asthma.
- Continuous coughing.
However, asthma is not imperatively the final diagnosis of the symptoms mentioned above; it is rather prevalent in children and younger. To cater to the child by providing the best possible medical care and aiding them in sustaining their control over their health, ensuring that they explore every possible avenue for their treatment. The more the child is aware of the condition of their lungs, the easier it becomes to avoid triggers and prevent asthmatic attacks.
Why Is It Important For A Child To See A Pediatric Pulmonologist?
The medical field umbrella covers the diverse spectrum of expert professionals who have completed their required training. However, it is essential to remember that not all doctors can be equally put on the same pan. Some know in abundance, some know less, and many know variegated things.
Most doctors study and acquire specialization in a particular category of health – for instance – female health, gastrointestinal health, skin, and respiratory allergies and elective surgeries, etc. These categories are further divided into sub-categories. The sub-categories usually incorporate different factors such as age, gender, case severity, etc. The primary point of the categories is you probably don’t want an allergist performing a neurosurgeon’s duty.
By the same means, a pediatric pulmonologist is far more reliable and always prioritized over a regular pulmonologist regarding the child’s respiratory health. Pediatric pulmonologists receive specific training that legally and officially certifies them to work with children, including four years of medical school and three years of pediatric training.
Because a child’s body is continuously in the growing and changing phase, they require healthcare that grows and changes with them and with time as well. Typically, an adult with asthma doesn’t see much healthier variations in their overall lung condition. However, a child with asthma likely will see change. The journey becomes much smooth and more accessible with the help of a pediatric pulmonologist.
Tests Conducted By a Pediatric Pulmonologist
The pediatric pulmonologist can conduct a wide variety of tests, including the following:
- Pulmonary function test– to discover how better your child’s lungs are functional. These painless measurements are recorded while your child does simple and easy tasks like breathing out, walking, or riding a bicycle.
- Allergy testing, bloodwork, or a chest X-ray to uncover what is the causative factor of your child’s symptoms.
To resolve your child’s breathing symptoms, a pediatric pulmonologist can prescribe medication and treatments taken at home. These treatments can include the following:
- Nebulizer treatments – your child will breathe in a mist that delivers medicine directly to their lungs.
- Chest physiotherapy – a respiratory therapy that vibrates the rib cage to dissolve mucus in the lungs.
- CPAP and BiPAP – a machine that utilizes air to help with breathing during sleeping hours.
- Home oxygen or ventilator use for serious cases.
Education and Training of Pediatric Pulmonologists
Anyone medical student who aspires to become a pediatric pulmonologist must acquire and complete the following academic requirements.
- Acquire a bachelor’s degree in four years.
- Should graduate from medical school to become a doctor – duration of four years.
- Should complete surplus training in pediatrics – duration of three years.
- Should complete required additional training in pediatric pulmonology – duration of a minimum of three or more years.
- Should pass all the necessary exams to become certified in both pediatrics and pediatric pulmonology and licensed officially by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Will Your Child Ever See Someone Except a Pediatric Pulmonologist?
Always remember that your child’s pediatric pulmonologist will suggest you consult an allergist or another type of doctor to determine whether they are actually suffering from asthma. Variegated factors can trigger asthma, so it is essential to differentiate between conditions – asthma induced by anxiety, mental stress, and panic attacks.
For a better understanding, let’s take this as an example. An allergist assists you to determine whether or not your child is suffering from allergic asthma. Allergic asthma happens when usual allergens, including pollen grains, pet hair, dust mites, etc., potentially trigger a person’s asthma and can cause different types of lung symptoms. Your child can develop a constant cough whenever you take them for a walk or stroll. They may face trouble catching their breath after playing aggressively with the family pet. In situations like these, it is crucial to visit the allergist to determine precisely the causative factor behind all these allergic reactions and how serious they are or can get over time.
A shallow attack can send a child to a pediatric pulmonologist if severe enough. However, the pulmonologist may refer the child straight up to an allergist for further testing once the immediate respiratory threat has been surpassed.
What Diseases Does a Pediatric Pulmonologist Treat?
Pediatric pulmonologists see children who are battling with an extensive range of breathing problems, from premature neonates with chronic lung disease to children with not-so-common disorders like interstitial lung disease.
Your child may require to consult a pediatric pulmonologist because a part of their respiratory system, which includes the lungs, airway, nose, mouth, and throat, is arranged in a way that makes it difficult to breathe. It is also possible for the pulmonologist to be part of a medical team that is managing your child for frequent aspiration – such as inhaling such as minor amounts of food, drinks, saliva, or even vomit – due to an aerodigestive disorder – a disease that imparts hazardous effects on the child’s airways and upper digestive tracts.
Following are the known diseases managed by a pediatric pulmonologist.
In asthma, your child’s lungs and airways react to specific triggers by swelling and producing extra mucus. This can result in wheezing, coughing, or struggling to breathe. Triggers can differ but mostly include viruses such as – colds and the flu – smoke, dust, mildew, pollen, animals, exercise, and sometimes stress. A pediatric pulmonologist can suggest oral medications to ease the symptoms, advise inhalers and nebulizers that send medicine directly to the lungs, and order allergy testing to find out the reason for what’s triggering asthma flares.
Small breaks and pauses in breathing can be normal for neonates. However, extensive pauses are a concern. Infant apnea is a breathing pause lasting for around 20 seconds or even longer. It eventually causes your baby’s heart rate to slow down, and their skin turns pale or blue. Depending on the underlying cause, medication can sometimes help decrease the frequency of sleep apnea.
Your family should learn CPR and how to ensure your child’s surroundings are safer. The doctor can prescribe an infant apnea monitor to use. It can alarm you if your baby stops breathing. Most babies enhance their breathing over time. They only need management and treatment until the apnea goes away.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a pattern of long breathing pauses due to the airway’s collapse during sleep. Oxygen levels come down suddenly, and your child wakes up just long enough so that they can resume breathing normally again. The child might not be alert enough to know that they’re waking at night, but they can develop trouble concentrating, behavior problems, and daytime sleepiness. Central sleep apnea occurs when your child stops breathing during sleep because their brain doesn’t cue their body to breathe. Pediatric pulmonologists can diagnose sleep disorders and, when imperatively required, prescribe a CPAP or BiPAP machine to aid your child in breathing normally during sleep.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that leads to the accumulation of thick mucus, blocking the airways and entangling germs in the lungs. As an outcome, children with cystic fibrosis may have persistent lung infections and struggle to breathe. Treatments include medications that can be inhaled and daily at-home therapy to dissolve the mucus and clear airways.
Additional Things to Keep in Mind:
Additionally, allergic asthma and breathing problems can be potentially triggered by stress, anxiety, physical overexertion, bad air quality, a stressful work environment, and strong fumes and smells. Keep in mind that it is pivotal to draft an asthma action plan for your child so that you will be aware of exactly in which manner to respond in the event of an asthma attack. It incorporates lung test results, symptoms, triggers, medications, doctor information, etc., so you and your physician can monitor vital data and continuously improvise the response plan.
Even if you think that your child does not need a pediatric pulmonologist, always be prepared to visit one in the situation of an uncalled emergency. Always keep a record of names, numbers, and addresses on a written file. Health organizations play an important role in asthma maintenance and safety. Your child’s health is the top most priority.