The first time I got referred to a specialist I had to do a bunch of online research just to get prepared. If you’re like me and many other parents out there, the sheer number of professionals who we can turn to for help can be overwhelming. I know many parents who haven’t gotten treatment because they simply don’t know who to turn to. There are so many ‘ists’ when it comes to the medical profession that it can seem impossible to figure out which one will be best for your child. On top of that, office visits aren’t cheap. Going to one specialist after another adds up – so most parents want to cut to the chase and go to the best professional for what they’re dealing with.
To help take the guesswork, run-around, and cost out of your medical care process, I’d like to share my cheat sheet with you. This will help you figure out who you might want to see first, and what the doctor you’ve been referred to is all about.
If your primary care doctor suspects that allergies are behind what’s causing your family trouble, they may refer you to an allergist. These experts focus their medical study on common and rare allergy issues and how the body deals with them. They know all about allergy medications, treatments, desensitization techniques, and management options. They often also know a lot about food and diet as well as things like fabrics, stuffing materials, medication ingredients, and so on.
An allergist can help track down and identify allergens in children in a number of ways so that you know what to avoid or how to treat the issue at its core.
A dermatologist is a doctor of the skin. They focus on dealing with everything related to our largest organ from acne and wrinkles to skin cancer and eczema. Dermatologists are trained to know how to work with the skin using medications, topical and internal supplements, and lifestyle changes. They’re wonderful resources when it comes to infections and breakouts on the skin and they are often a great first-step in dealing with atopic dermatitis (eczema).
As parents with kids who have allergies and sensitivities, we know that diet is everything! A Nutritionist helps fine tune your child’s diet based on what’s happening with their help – all while ensuring they’re getting the right amount of nutrients to grow up strong.
Nutritionists are similar to dieticians, but they’re more clinical. They often use things like blood tests, urine analysis, and collaborations with your primary medical provider to really dig deep into nutritional issues. It’s often a Nutritionist who works with people who have Celiac’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or other digestive issues.
Many families choose to work with a qualified dietician to help get their eating habits in line with great health. A dietician is not a medical doctor, but they do go through a great deal of schooling and nutritional education in order to be certified.
If you need help making sure that your eating habits, food choices, ingredients, meals, and snacks are good choices for your whole family, working with a dietician can help. They are often the first choice for people who aren’t sure how to make a great meal plan, and they will help ensure that everyone in the family is getting enough calories, fats, proteins, and nutrients throughout the day.
Naturopaths have N.D. after their names – similar to the M.D. after a regular medical doctor. In fact, they are regular medical doctors with some very specialized training. Naturopaths can do everything a regular M.D. can do, but they lean in favor of all-natural, homeopathic, and plant-based remedies instead of turning immediately to prescription medications.
Working with an N.D. is just like any other trip to your family doctor, but the advice they give will be different. They may focus more on diet, foods, supplements, herbs, oils, body work, and even relaxation as part of a full healing treatment. A naturopathic doctor can run the same tests and give the same prescriptions that a Medical Doctor can.
A Pediatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in working with children and the illnesses they are most prone to. They are well-versed in developmental issues, allergies, growth, behavior, nutrition, immunity, and childhood diseases.
If your child is very young, working with a Pediatrician is the best first step since they know the unique needs of babies and toddlers – and they typically have a great store of resources for specialists if needed.
In some cases, the professional you work with will refer you to a specialist. Specialists are usually medical doctors who have focused their study and experience in a very specific way. Examples of specialists include behavioral, brain, blood, bone, immunity, allergy, and dietary. These professionals focus on one area of medicine and tend to be up to date on the latest research and options when it comes to diseases that fall under their specialty. In most cases you can’t go to a specialist directly – you’ll need a referral from a primary caregiver first.
What kind of medical provider have you experienced the most help from?
Share with us in the comments below!