I’m sure you all vividly remember the episode in Friends when everyone found out that a 30-something Ross used to still visit his paediatrician. We’ve all grown up making regular visits to paediatricians. Astute kids that we were, we must’ve differentiated experts from novices, based on whether or not we were offered lollipops.Children, just like adults, can have health ailments. They need TLC from doctors who are specially trained, as common sense dictates that children are NOT little adults. When it comes to caring for your child, it is your pediatrician who will be your pillar – a best friend. Children often react very differently to medications than adults do. By virtue of them being adorably clueless and smaller, a soft touch is required. It’s hard to explain to a tiny tot why one minute they’re given a blob of chocolate and the next minute their buttocks are being poked by a giant needle.
These days among paediatric diseases and conditions, allergies are increasingly prevalent. Up to three to four children in every ten, are affected by allergies at some time in their life, and the incidence is on the increase. While this is no forum for a Paediatric Allergies 101, we’ll give you an elementary idea: An allergy is a hypersensitivity to environmental substances such as dust, pollen, and certain foods. Allergic individuals experience adverse reactions that do not normally occur in a larger population exposed to similar amounts of the specific allergen.
Now as a concerned parent you might wonder if your allergy-suffering child needs the healing touch of an allergist as opposed to the good ol’ family paediatrician. The answer is an emphatic shout-from-the-rooftop YES! You should pinky hold your way to an allergy specialist with your kid the next time he/she develops a rash, makes funny noises etc.
An allergy specialist is trained in the latest diagnostic and treatment tools and therefore knows how to comprehensively diagnose and effectively care for their young patients.Allergists understand how parents struggle when their kids have allergies. They are well equipped to give you practical guidance on how to read skin care labels, whether or not your child can be a ‘gym class hero’ and the do’s and don’ts while grocery shopping.
We chatted up one such paediatrician. Dr Chiang Wen Chin is specialized in paediatric allergy and immunology conditions. She spoke about her role as a paediatrician and threw light on the increasing prevalence of allergies.
Why did you choose to become a paediatrician?
Paediatrics is a very interesting field. We see children from all spectrums of life. We see them from when they’re very young. They can be babies in little incubators all the way up to grownup children, teenagers and adolescents. The spectrum of being able to watch them grow up, through their ups and downs, through their illnesses is great fun. On top of that, being able to interact with the children and reassure parents takes special skills — something I pride myself on.
What are some challenges you face in your field?
If you have a very sick child, someone who is young and vulnerable , parents are absolutely anxious, sometimes devastated when the prognosis/ outcome of the illness is very bad. And that is a challenge. And we’ve often faced that in some of the children who’ve come to see us.
What are the qualities that encompass a good paediatrician?
Compassion and empathy are two important attributes. Being able to delicately interact with children as well as parents is very important. Other important qualities include being able to understand the different stages in a child’s life and use a good communication tool with kids at a tender age. I think in most paediatricians, one of the joys is to be able to see the child through illness and to pick them up and communicate with them even when they’re ill.
What’s your typical workday like?
I start off in the mornings with a nice breakfast with the kids and after that I bundle down to work and start my ward rounds in the hospital. This is followed by a day in the clinic where I run around seeing patients. After a quick lunch, I tend to patients in the evening again and resume my ward rounds. It’s not different whether I work in a hospital setup or a clinic setting. The routine would be the same.
What are your views on paediatric allergy?
I think paediatric allergy is quite an interesting field. Something that has almost taken the form of a tsunami in the last one decade or so. The fact that rhinitis, food allergies and eczematous children with bad skin are on the rise testify to the mounting concern.
Allergies in children has increasingly become a burden in developing countries. It’s a very interesting field because we see a spectrum of different symptoms and varying severities of conditions in children coming to see us.
What are the paediatric services offered by your practice?
In the area where I practice , food allergy and eczema actually rank quite high. In these areas, for diagnostics we do a good background check, skin quick testing and sometimes blood tests for the children to be able to determine if they have food allergies. In the area of rhinitis and asthma we do help with diagnostics via skin quick testing for environmental allergies. We sometimes do lung function testing to ensure that the lungs are stable. We offer therapy for children with bad nose allergies and rhinitis, to enable them to overcome dust-mite allergy.
A parenting tip from a paediatrician?
Allergies in this present day and age can be managed. It is good for the child(patient) to have a good understanding of allergies so we can manage them better. It actually affects the quality of the life of the child and the parent if these allergies are poorly perceived and managed. And therefore, in my view, if we can help these children and parents to have a better quality of life by managing allergies, then they should be managed.