Adult Medicine vs. Pediatric Medicine: What's The Difference?

Practicing medicine on children is a lot different than practicing on adults. Small children and infants have unique needs and require a special kind of care and attention that adults do not. Pediatricians are specially trained physicians that work with children exclusively and routinely treat children from birth all to way to age twenty one. Pediatric medicine differs from adult medicine primarily in the way of evaluating and treating health problems in children and ensuring that children are developing into healthy adults. A pediatrician can recognize developmental issues in children readily and work to correct them as a specialist in children’s medicine. While an adult practitioner is surely capable of doing this, a pediatrician will most likely be recommended as a more effective option.

Pediatric Differences

It is important to distinguish the important differences and implications of pediatric medicine over adult medicine. Children are vulnerable patients and must be treated accordingly--particularly when it comes to prescribing drugs. Often drugs that are prescribed to children have only been tested on adults and this can be a potential problem for children’s developing bodies. The main difference between adult medicine and pediatric medicine is child physiology. There are large enough differences that everything from diagnosing, treating, and prescribing medicine to children can require a completely different approach. Treating children as adults in medicine can result in over or under medication and other adverse events.

Importance of Children’s Medicine

Because of the differences in physiology between adults and children, a dedicated pediatric physician should be the trusted source for children’s health care. What’s more, this emphasis on children’s medicine should extend to pharmaceutics to develop drug treatments especially for children as well. Children have different needs when it comes to prescription drugs and medical treatment. Their metabolisms are different as is their tolerance to chemicals and their response to treatments. Just because a treatment works on an adult does not mean it will work the same on a child. It some ways practicing medicine on children can be more challenging than practicing on adults. Communication of symptoms and identifying an effective, safe treatment option can be challenges. In many cases, pediatricians rely on the parents to provide a lot of the information, but this too may be a challenge. Pediatricians must interpret both adults and children at times to secure the right information to treat the child. Because of this, pediatricians must be some of the most highly trained and knowledgeable medical professionals.

There are ethical challenges in treating children as well since their bodies are rapidly developing and not every conventional medical treatment will be effective on them. In most instances, however, pediatric medicine has a repertoire of diagnosis and treatments to address the most common afflictions in children. While pediatric pharmaceutical research and drug development is not pursued to the same degree as it is for adults, children above a certain age are still safely prescribed acceptable dosages of certain medicines without problem. For young children and adolescents, it is important to utilize a pediatrician for their medical needs.