Pediatric immunology is a medical field focused on the treatment of children with immune disorders. Practitioners in this specialty may approach it from a background in pediatrics with a fellowship in immunology, or they may have pursued immunology training followed by advanced work with children. Major medical centers are more likely to have a specialist of this nature, in which case children in rural areas or locations with limited medical providers may receive referrals so they can get comprehensive evaluation and treatment for immunological conditions. Seeing a specialist can improve patient outcomes in some cases.
One area of interest in pediatric immunology is immunocompromise, a concern with patients who have conditions like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or cancers. These children may need special care and support to protect them from infections and keep the underlying medical condition under control. A specialist in immunology may be asked to participate in treatment planning and care to help maintain a patient’s health and adjust treatment in response to changes in medical status.
Autoimmune disorders, including allergies, systemic lupus erythematosus, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, can also treated by a specialist in pediatric immunology. This can include detailed evaluations for allergies or management of asthma associated with allergies. Patients at risk for anaphylaxis and other severe allergic reactions are of particular concern, because their immune systems are so sensitive that exposure can be fatal or seriously damaging.
The precise services offered by a pediatric immunology practice can depend on the size, the training of the providers, and the location. Some may have broad services covering rheumatology and related topics, while others may be narrowed on a specific focus like HIV or allergies. Patients referred to a specific clinic can ask about alternative options to consider and whether treatments might be available from other providers if they want to make a more informed choice about where to go for care. Costs for treatment may be covered by insurance in some cases, but not if they are considered experimental or off-label.
Specialists in pediatric immunology may participate directly in patient care or research. Part of research can include identifying new tools for diagnosis and treatment to increase the chances of early identification and intervention. It also involves preventative measures, like steps people can take to reduce the development of immune hypersensitivity. Such developments could help limit the incidence of immune disorders in the next generation of patients.