Paediatrician vs Family Physician vs General Physician: Who should you see for your child?

by Dr. Aravind A

Every parent prioritizes the health and well-being of their child above anything else and always wants the best possible care for their children. From playground injuries to seasonal illnesses, kids tend to visit the doctor more frequently than adults. This often makes it difficult for parents to choose between a family physician and a paediatrician as both provide treatments for children.

Some of the questions that you may ask yourself maybe

Aren't children just 'mini-adults'?
Aren't all doctors the same?
How do I make sense of the various specialities of medicine?
Are you a new parent? Or perhaps moved houses? Or cities.

Before you self-diagnose or opt for a doctor for your child, you must answer the following questions -

  • Who is a more effective doctor for your child and what kinds of diseases do they treat?
  • Do paediatricians only treat children of a certain age group?
  • What age should your child switch from a paediatrician to a general physician?

While both paediatricians and general physicians are medical experts, both of them however, specialize in different fields of medicine. With the help of this blog, you will be able to easily spot the differences between the two and will help you make informed decisions for your child’s well-being.

Who is a paediatrician and what do they specialize in?

Paediatricians are specialists with expertise in the field of children's health and medicine. They treat children in the age group 0-18 years of age and offer individualized solutions for every child. Paediatricians are primary care doctors and specialize in treating physical, mental and social health-related issues in children. These doctors perform regular wellness checks, screen behavioural and developmental concerns and undertake vaccinations through the ages of 0-18.

Why do I need to choose a paediatrician for my child?

Children are in fact very different to adults, not just in size, but also in terms of their constitution and their bodily functions. They have less mature internal organs which function differently from adults. Congenital problems and developmental issues are very specific to young patients. Paediatricians are trained to handle these issues in babies, toddlers and older children.

Through their years of rigorous training, they are well-versed in

  • Communication – know how to speak to kids and connect with them
  • Experienced in understanding parental expectations and anxieties
  • Expertise in developmental stages from newborn through adolescence.

Who are Family physicians and what do they specialize in?

Family physicians are also primary care doctors who have expertise in a variety of medical fields in addition to paediatrics. These include specialities like internal medicine and gynaecology. They provide treatment and diagnosis to patients of all age groups and are capable of treating children with conditions like asthma, pink eye and bedwetting etc. Family physicians offer comprehensive medical care to each member of the family, covering adult and pediatric medicine, preventive care and comprehensive women’s health care, thereby making them uniquely qualified to serve as Primary Care Providers.

Who are General physicians and what do they specialize in?

‘General physicians’ or ‘Internal Medicine’ or ‘General Medicine’ specialists are doctors who treat patients in the adult age group (18-100+). Their expertise is in diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions in adults including common infections, and lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In the past few years, with an ever-growing elderly population with specific health needs, a subspecialty of General Medicine has emerged called Geriatrics, and Geriatricians are doctors who treat patients in this elderly age group (60-100+).

When should you consider a Paediatrician for your child?

  • For parents with newborns, it is recommended that they get their child examined by a paediatrician as it provides for early recognition of diseases, besides undertaking wellness checks to monitor growth and development, particularly in infants born prematurely
  • Vaccinations – including those recommended in the national immunization schedule such as BCG, Polio, DPT, MMR etc and other important vaccines such as those for pneumonia, typhoid, meningitis, influenza, chickenpox, and cervical cancer vaccine
  • Diagnosis and/or treatment of congenital disorders
  • Children with special needs
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Transitioning to a general physician for the adolescent age group.

When should you consider a switch to a General Physician from a Paediatrician?

As children reach adulthood, their health requirements change and they will require experts who can help meet their changing mental, physical and social needs. Healthcare transition is important for all youth, even if they do not have special needs in order to maximize lifelong functioning and well-being. There are no specific ages or set rules to switch from a paediatrician to a General Physician, though it is widely accepted that a well-timed transition from child-oriented to adult-oriented health care is specific to each person, and ideally occurs between the ages of 18 and 21 years.

Key differences between paediatric and adult care.

Family orientedAutonomous, independent skills of patients
Significant parental involvement in decision makingAutonomous, independent skills of patients
Often involve large multi-disciplinary teamsSmaller teams with subspecialty expertise
Consultations often involve detailed discussions and intensive coordinationShorter appointment times and focused care coordination
Regular active follow- upMore passive follow-up


 Sees infants, KidsSees adultsWomen's health
Family Medicine
Internal Medicine  

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