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What Does a Pediatric Dermatologist Do?

A pediatric dermatologist may inspect hives on children.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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A pediatric dermatologist is a physician who specializes in skincare for children. To become a pediatric dermatologist, a doctor receives training both in dermatology, the treatment of skin conditions, and pediatrics, a branch of medicine aimed at meeting the specific needs of child and young adult patients. Pediatric dermatologists can be found working in hospitals and clinics as well as private offices, and they offer a range of services to their patients.

Patients usually go to see a pediatric dermatologist when they are referred by their regular physicians. An appointment often starts with a discussion of why the patient is there and, if the patient's chart has been transferred, the pediatric dermatologist will examine the chart to learn more about the patient and identify particular areas of concern. The doctor will examine the skin problem which brought the patient to the office and may request tests such as skin scrapings and blood tests to learn more about the situation.

Children are often at increased risk of allergic reactions to things like poison oak and poison ivy because they are highly active, and sometimes these reactions require treatment. Contact dermatitis with allergens can also be an issue, as can skin reactions associated with food and medication allergies. A pediatric dermatologist can inspect rashes, hives, sores, and other skin breakouts, determine what is causing them, and make treatment recommendations.

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Pediatric dermatologists can remove skin growths, discuss options for management of birthmarks, and provide patients with treatments for skin outbreaks from acne to warts. Occasionally, other doctors may be consulted for the purpose of providing the most complete care. For example, if a pediatric dermatologist suspects that a rash is allergic in nature, treatment can be provided for the rash and the patient can be referred to an allergy specialist who can conduct some tests to find out what the patient is allergic to.

Compliance can sometimes be an issue with young patients, who may not understand the need to complete a course of medication, avoid certain substances, or take other steps to facilitate treatment. Part of the work of a pediatric dermatologist includes communicating with the patient in a way which is accessible and helpful for the patient, as well as conveying information to the patient's caregivers so that they can ensure that the patient's treatment at home is performed correctly. Pediatric dermatologists can occasionally encounter vociferous objections from patients, especially young children who have been in treatment for a recurring skin problem and are tired of being poked and prodded. Skills which put young patients at ease are critical for these medical practitioners.

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