A waiting room filled with children's blocks and toys to keep toddlers occupied while waiting on regular check ups during a child's first years are a familiar sight for most parents.
Yet even though the child may outgrow the toys in the waiting room, there is not a set age for children to make the transition from pediatrician to family physician, pediatrician Holly Robinson with King's Daughters' Health said. And in many cases, making the switch between pediatricians and general practice doctors is left up to the family or patient, not the practice.
"People always think babies for pediatrics," Robinson said.
In reality, pediatricians treat children from birth until age 12, age 18, age 21 or - in some cases - 25 years of age, depending on the doctor or practice.
Much like the other specialized areas of medicine, pediatric care deals with the specialized medical care of children. From understanding the proper growth and development of children to specializing in chronic childhood illnesses, pediatricians deal with children on a daily basis and understand the changing health issues and trends specifically for children.
Pediatricians spend about three years working with children before receiving a degree, Robinson said, which is much more time with children than general practice physicians have.
Even though pediatricians take care of most children throughout teen years as well, most care seems to be for young toddlers, Robinson said.
While most toddlers visit a pediatrician regularly during the first year or two to update vaccinations and for regular check-ups, children often go without regular check-ups until required school physicals or illnesses during teen years.
A transition to a regular family physician should be made once children age out of pediatric care at whatever age parents or teens decide to make the switch from pediatric care. The transition between pediatrician to family physician may be a bit daunting after spending so many years with one doctor, and medical professionals recommend a few visits to a new family physician before aging out or switching out of pediatric care.