As any parent knows, kids are not mini-adults. (If they were, they’d probably do a better job of cleaning up after themselves). Their bodies, their ways of thinking, feeling and expressing themselves – they’re different in thousands of ways.
Those differences make a big difference when they’re sick or hurt. In fact, they change everything about how we care for them at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Our teams take into account hundreds of factors, from age to size to developmental level to individual differences, when they diagnose and treat the kids in our care. Here are just a few:
- Kids have smaller hearts and lower blood volumes. Their bodies work harder to deliver oxygen to their muscles. And heart problems in children typically develop before birth — compared with adults, whose hearts “wear out” over time.
- Kids have smaller airways. Inflamed lungs might cause adults to cough, but they can render kids unable to breathe. Kids also take in more air relative to their size — along with more substances that can cause infections and diseases.
- Kids are more vulnerable to trauma. When your body is smaller, traumatic events like car accidents hit you harder: They’re exerting the same amount of force on a smaller area. Kids also have more pliable bones and less protection in their abdominal walls, so they’re more prone to internal organ injury.
- Kids have higher risk for brain injury. Children’s brains aren’t fully developed, and they have proportionally larger heads and weaker supporting neck muscles.
- Kids have a greater chance of infection and complication. Younger immune systems are less “experienced” at identifying and fighting off infection. For instance, children are more likely than healthy adults to develop tuberculosis after they’ve been exposed to the bacteria. Kids usually heal faster than adults, but they get sick faster, too — meaning complications can worsen very quickly, sometimes to a life-threatening degree.
- Kids get different types of illnesses and have different reactions to disease. Many diseases affect children and adults differently, and some diseases occur only in childhood. For example, some bacterial and viral infections (like rubella, mumps and pertussis) affect mostly children.
- Kids’ bones are still growing. Their bones have growth plates, and only fully harden after puberty. When we treat a child’s broken bone, we plan for how the bone will grow, so it heals properly over time.
- Kids have different brain structures. They have different neurotransmitters (chemical substances that help their nerves communicate), and their nerves aren’t fully lined yet. Their brains also contain more water, which makes them softer and causes them to respond differently to surgery and traumatic injury.
- Kids’ brain activity is different. Structural differences mean that the electrical activity in children’s brains looks different in tests like EEGs (electroencephalograms), which track and record brain wave patterns. Pediatric specialists know how to interpret those tests and plan for how your child’s brain will develop over time.
- Kids communicate differently. They can’t always tell you what’s wrong, especially when they’re very young. Sometimes they can’t describe their symptoms accurately, or they confuse pain with fear, and they might not understand why they need an exam. They need care from professionals who can connect with them on their level.
Here, we design our care for kids, so every baby, child, teen and young adult gets the treatment, attention and compassion they need to feel better. We do it with pediatric expertise, tailoring tests and treatments to kids’ ages and stages. We do it collaboratively, coordinating care across departments and specialties. We do it with a focus on kids and families, putting caregivers at the center of the care team. And we do it with a positive, engaging approach, with child life specialists whose entire job is to help kids feel safe and relaxed, so we can get to the root of the problem.
Kids need a hospital just for kids. Children’s Colorado is that kind of place.