Child Health

Child health, or paediatrics, is an important aspect of general practice and in children cannot be simply regarded as small adults.  Children make up about 1 in 5 general practice consultations in Australia. At EMC all of our doctors have significant experience in caring for children.  Apart from general practice experience, a number of our doctors also have postgraduate qualifications in paediatrics and many have previously worked on the children’s ward at various hospitals.  Dr Campbell, in addition to her medical experience as a doctor, also worked in paediatric intensive care as a nurse before becoming a doctor and has had experience working with children with heart conditions.  You can look at our doctor profiles here.

For your GP, child patients are quite different to adult patients. Some of the considerations of your GP are:

  • Much (and often, all) of the medical history and details of the complaint come from the accompanying adult rather than the patient and often children have difficulty communicating their complaints.
  • Medical procedures and investigations (e.g. blood tests and medical imaging) can be confronting and anxiety provoking for a child, so your GP will try to get to a diagnosis and treat the issue with minimal distress for a child.

Children, in many areas, also have different physiology and anatomy from adults so a smaller variant of an adult treatment is often not the appropriate treatment for children.  Different medical conditions are also more prevalent at different stages of life and children are no different.  Some of the more prevalent issues with children include:

  • Problems associated with development
  • Infectious diseases and Vaccination

Child Development

Each child that the GP is seeing is in a stage of development towards adulthood.  These stages generally happen in ways, and at ages that are predictable. Children will normally reach certain milestones at roughly a certain age.  These are an important yardstick against which to assess an individual child’s development.  A departure from these predictable developmental milestones can often be the first sign that development is not progressing normally.  This may be identified by any one of a number of people in a child’s life with varying experiences and training (e.g. a parent, a grandparent or other relative/friend, a teacher or childcare worker, your GP or other health professional). 

A child’s development is a complex interplay between genetic factors, environment (pre and post birth), attachments and relationships and general health.  In assessing your child’s development, your GP will consider all of these.  At EMC our GPs are able to provide an initial assessment of your child and determine the requirement for further investigation and/or assessment or to provide reassurance.

Infectious diseases and Vaccination

This brave warrior is lining up for his “Ninjacoccal” vaccination.

Children have an immature and developing immune system and are also less likely to pay attention to hygiene in their day-to-day activities than adults.  Children are also more likely to physically interact with each other in close proximity, as well as share toys.  These factors make them more susceptible to infectious diseases.  Many of these diseases are easily recognisable by your GP and are either easily treatable or self-limiting.  Others, such as meningococcal meningitis, can be very serious or life threatening and your GP will always maintain a high index of suspicion in children presenting with signs and symptoms of infection.

Many of the more serious infections can be prevented through vaccination.  At EMC we advocate the vaccination of all children that have no contraindications.  We advise vaccination of children in accordance with the Australian Immunisation Schedule.

Unfortunately, vaccination rates have declined over recent years largely through the promulgation of disinformation by ill-informed self-interest groups.  A major catalyst for the rise of these groups was a single study linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to the development of autism.  This study was found to contain falsified data and the author was struck off the medical board in the UK.  Hundreds of subsequent studies have categorically disproven the claims of this one study. 

A direct consequence of the fall in vaccination rates has been the re-appearance of previously very rare vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough. It is important to remember that high rates of vaccination in a community provides protection to those children that do not respond as well to vaccinations and those children that are unable to be vaccinated due to conditions affecting their immune systems.  This known as “Herd Immunity”.  A quick look at the following graph provides a compelling case for vaccination.

We operate a notification system to provide reminders for scheduled vaccinations and all childhood vaccinations are entered onto the Australian Immunisation Register.  Our nurses are always available to provide advice on the childhood vaccination schedule and our GPs are more than willing to discuss vaccination in general with you.