The healthy cry of a newborn refreshes our world.
It connects us to the past and the future in a single moment. Parents immediately dedicate the rest of their lives to the well-being of their child.
This dedication leaves new parents scrambling for all the information, assistance and advice they can get.
Dr. Austin Bowles, the pediatrician at Intermountain’s Utah Valley Clinic, sees young parents under a great deal of stress from wanting to do the best for their children. While he admits this desire is admirable, he also educates parents on the resilience of their children.
“Some feel that everything in the world is out to get their child — baby products, foods, vaccinations,” he says. “My message is that most things out there are safe and that babies are very willing to accept our best efforts. Parents don’t need to be perfect.”
This hypersensitivity is another important reason to develop a trusting relationship with a pediatrician.
“We can talk through concerns and possible misinformation that sometimes circulates — especially through social media — and make sure we are making decisions based the best information and science available,” Dr. Bowles says.
Dr. Bowles believes that for families with normally healthy children, a pediatrician is there as much for the parents as for the child.
“I try to spend a lot of time answering questions from parents and let them know they are doing great,” he says.
Dr. Bowles was raised on a ranch in southeastern Idaho. He helped first-hand with delivering calves and helping them stay healthy through a series of vaccinations.
“My childhood made me very familiar with biology and piqued my interest in science,” he says. “I loved physiology.”
This early interest led him toward a career in medicine and eventually to pediatrics.
“I was the oldest cousin on one of the sides of my family and was always pretty good at working with the younger kids, getting them organized into games and activities,” he says. “It was natural for me to want to help children.”
With Dr. Bowles joining the Intermountain team last summer after finishing up his residency at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Intermountain now has its own pediatrics clinic in Provo.
Early Habits of Health
Starting the day a child is born, a pediatrician visits the nursery, checking vital wellness indicators and beginning a habit of health that gets children off on the right foot.
“We begin building the relationship with parents — and the child — from the beginning,” Dr. Bowles says.
For too many, trips to the pediatrician’s office only coincide with school-mandated vaccinations. However, Dr. Bowles and his team see the best results when there is a regular check-up of the patient.
“We’re looking for several different things at our well-child visits,” he says. “We check growth, we do developmental screenings and we can identify potential concerns early and start to work on overcoming them.”
Increasingly, pediatricians are navigating parents and patients as young as 10 through mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. With this increased need comes increased training for pediatricians.
“As a child gets older, we begin to screen for mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression, at every visit,” Dr. Bowles says. “We want to make sure there aren’t any major concerns. If concerns arise, we work together with the patient and the parents to improve the situation. It’s a very rewarding part of our work as pediatricians.”
Adolescents will often speak more candidly with a pediatrician about mental and emotional concerns than they will with parents, giving doctors a vital role in the well-being of patients.
In all aspects of a child’s health, Dr. Bowles seeks out and trusts the feelings of parents.
“Moms especially are in tune with their child,” he says. “They know when a cry is concerning. They know when a cold might be more than a cold. They know when to ask for a little extra help.”
And when a little extra help is needed — for parent and child — Dr. Bowles and his team is ready.
What is Pediatrics?
The American Academy of Pediatrics defines the specialty as “the specialty of medical science concerned with the physical, mental, and social health of children from birth to young adulthood. Pediatric care encompasses a broad spectrum of health services ranging from preventive health care to the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic diseases.”
Common Concerns … and Colds
Dr. Austin Bowles sees the gamut as a pediatrician. However, there are some things parents have more questions about than others. Below are some common concerns, along with Dr. Bowles’ general advice.
“Most of the time, a cold is just a cold. It’s mainly about controlling the excess mucus. Other issues — like pneumonia or ear infections — can stem from a cold. If things seem to worsen or don’t improve as expected, check in with a pediatrician.”
“Watch for higher fever, muscle aches and secondary symptoms like vomiting. They usually get better on their own — treat them like a bad cold — but there are antiviral medications we can use for infants and children at higher risk, but they are more effective if started early in the process.”
“Crying is a normal and even reassuring part of a baby’s development, especially in the first few months. See a pediatrician for advice on how to navigate excessive crying and when to be concerned.”