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What is a Pediatric Pulmonologist?
A Pediatric Pulmonologist is a doctor who takes care of lung issues in children. They consult, diagnose, manage and treat children with lung diseases and breathing issues until the age of 21.
What Conditions/Health Issues Does A Pediatric Pulmonologist Address?
Some of the conditions addressed by a Pediatric Pulmonologist are:
Wheezing, noisy breathing or stridor: A whistling sound produced due to an obstructed airway. A blockage in the trachea or larynx can cause this disruption. Symptoms of the same in infants include recurrent cough with or without sputum, wheezing sound while breathing out and sometimes fever, depending on the cause. However the symptoms in growing children are Noisy and labored breathing especially while exhaling, breathlessness, coughing episodes after exposure to certain trigger elements and tightness in the throat and chest.
Asthma: A chronic illness where the airways get inflamed, become narrow, swell up and produce excessive mucus which leads to breathing difficulty. This can occur due to respiratory infections or allergies to external factors like pollen, dust, dander etc. Some of the common symptoms in infants that needs to be noticed are breathlessness, frequent cough, exhaustion, sucking or feeding difficulties and blue discoloration in the face and lips. However, symptoms in growing children heavy breathing or panting during everyday activities, tightness and pain in the chest, cough, wheezing sound, recurrent respiratory infection, throat irritation and increased heart rate.
Bronchitis: An infection causing inflammation and mucus production in the bronchial tubes of the lungs. Symptoms in infants include wheezing sounds, runny nose, congestion, sore throat, lethargy, fever, chills, chest pain, and breathing difficulty, reduced appetite and increased heartbeat. In growing children the symptoms to be noticed are cough with or without mucus production, chills, chest congestion, vomiting or dry heaves, sore throat and pain in the muscles and back.
Pneumonia: An infection of the air sacs in the lungs which causes inflammation and fluid buildup in these air sacs. It usually begins with a bacterial, fungal or viral infection. Symptoms in infants are high fever, breathing difficulty, bobbing of the head while breathing, cough, abdominal pain, irritability and fatigue. Symptoms in growing children include fast or shallow breathing, fever, chills, fatigue, dehydration, runny nose, sore throat, sharp chest pain, cough and rapid heart rate.
Apnea: A disorder where a person's breathing is interrupted and stops intermittently for a brief duration. The movement of the respiratory muscles cease every time this occurs. Symptoms in infants: Repeated prolonged pauses in breathing, slow heartbeat, the need for resuscitation and continued care. Symptoms in growing children include loud snoring, paused breathing, sleepiness during the day, restless sleep, inability to concentrate, difficulty in concentration, dry mouth, bed wetting, mood swings and issues with behavior.
Chronic lung disease in prematurely born infants: Another term this goes by is bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). It is an umbrella term for breathing issues and lung problems in infants who are born prematurely. Symptoms in infants are respiratory distress and the prolonged need of respiratory support. Symptoms in growing children are breathlessness, wheezing, tightness in the chest, chronic cough, excessive mucus build up in the lungs, blue discoloration on the lips and nails (cyanosis), recurrent respiratory infections, fatigue and weight loss.
Cystic fibrosis: A genetic disorder where excessive mucus builds up inside the body blocking the airways of the lungs, pancreatic ducts, bile ducts and intestinal walls. Symptoms in infants include constant coughing, wheezing, foul smelling greasy stool, salty skin and sweat, poor physical growth and lack of proper weight gain. Symptoms in growing children are respiratory issues like chronic productive cough with thick mucus and sometimes blood, recurrent lung infections, insufficient increase in weight, constipation with bulky stool or persistent diarrhea, wheezing episodes and chronic sinusitis.
Last but not the least, other conditions that require breathing equipment for children outside hospital care.
What Diagnostic Test / Procedure Can A Pediatric Pulmonologist Consultants Suggest?
Some Services and Medical Procedures a Pediatric Pulmonologist Consultants may suggest, are monitoring of oxygen and carbon dioxide - to understand the carbon dioxide levels in the patient and monitor the gas exchange. Pulmonary function testing (PFT) - to measure the function of the lungs for its capacity, gas exchange, volume and rate of flow. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - to look at structures within the body using radio waves to diagnose the health condition. Sweat chloride testing - to measure the amount of sodium and chloride in the sweat of a patient. Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan - to take images of the organs within the body with a special type of X-ray to understand the disease and its prognosis. Ultrasound scan - to scan the organs of the body and create images using sound waves for a better understanding of the illness. Thoracentesis and chest tube placement (Thoracostomy) - to remove excess fluid or air in between the lungs and the chest wall by means of this minimally invasive procedure. Flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy - to use a fiberoptic scope and look inside the lungs for proper diagnosis.
Unlike the bodily functions and mental processing ability of adults while fighting illnesses to retain good health, the bodies of kids and teenagers function very differently and respond differently to various illnesses and treatments. They even address their concerns differently than how adults do. This is where doctors who are pediatric pulmonary specialists come into play. They are experts who would help children relax, listen, understand and co-operate during a medical examination and treatment. They know how to examine and treat ill children and teenagers in distress while concentrating on an accurate diagnosis and a suitable prognosis for complete healing.