Pediatrics, branch of medicine, that comprises the care and treatment of the diseases of childhood and the study of normal growth.
Pediatricians are trained to recognize congenital defects (see Birth Defects) and to treat them when possible. One important treatable class of these conditions is congenital heart malformations; surgical correction of these defects has become increasingly successful. Other congenital illnesses that must be diagnosed and treated soon after birth are phenylketonuria and congenital hypothyroidism (see Cretinism). Pediatricians must also handle a number of infectious diseases that are most often seen in childhood. These include recurrent ear infections such as otitis media (see Ear), mumps, measles, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, and croup. Many of these diseases can be prevented by immunization, which is the responsibility of the pediatrician.
Pediatricians also monitor the normal growth and development of a child according to important motor and intellectual milestones. Recognition of developmental lags may point to lack of proper nutrition, poisoning with environmental substances such as lead, or hyperactivity. In addition, pediatricians must be alert for disorders that usually first become apparent in childhood, such as allergy, immune deficiency diseases (see Immune System), and epilepsy.