Insider’s View: What Your Pediatrician Wants You To Know

stethescopeLet’s face it, most parents are intimidated by a visit to the pediatrician. Your anxiety level is through the roof ’cause either your child is sick (scary, scary, scary – what if it’s something serious?) or you’re there for a check-up (what if he’s too short? too fat? not walking yet? not developing normally?). No matter what, you feel judged, insecure, and pressured to show that you’re doing it right.

We doctors are tainted by that white coat, distant, know-it-all image. I never wore a white coat when I saw kids in my office, but parents kind of imagine it there anyway. Then there’s the language barrier. Some of us use words you don’t know, when we could just as easily speak plain English. And sometimes the only words that work are medical and unfamiliar. It’s not easy to shorten the distance between us, even for doctors who want to – and we’ve all had experiences with those who don’t.

So here are some hints to help make you feel more comfortable in the relationship. If you know some of the ‘rules’ you won’t need to worry so much about breaking them:

You are the expert when it comes to your child. You see him day in and day out and you know every little quirk. That includes which ear hurts and how long the belly ache lasted. You know better than we do, and some of us are even wise enough to acknowledge you for it. Please tell us everything you know about why you’re here. You’re our ace in the hole for coming up with the best answer.

We want to see your kid in his natural state to get the most realistic picture of what’s going on. If he’s been home with a fever for two days, don’t give him Tylenol right before you come in. We need to see the gnarly green mucous that’s been coming out of his nose or the scary itchy rash across his chest. And if you can show us that nasty stuff in the diaper that’s worrying you, all the better. So hold the home remedies until after the visit.

DO call us if you’re worried about something. The best time to call with a routine problem is during office hours when we have a full staff available to help, and we’ll be pretty cranky if you call at 1 in the morning with a symptom that’s been going on for a week, but we can’t diagnose or treat something that we don’t know about. And it bears repeating that any sudden problem that raises your ‘panic antennae’ warrants an immediate call — to the doc or 911.

Ask lots of questions. An educated consumer really IS our best customer. Pediatric medicine isn’t rocket science – can’t believe I just gave that away – and you are fully capable of understanding what’s going on with your child. Keep asking until you do. You may have heard or read some stuff that’s not quite on target, and we’ll tell you the straight scoop.

Don’t mislead your child. If there’s reason to believe he may get a shot, don’t tell him he won’t. Choose your timing and the amount of information you offer up, but if you deceive him he won’t trust you next time.

Then there are the basics. Do your very best to be on-time for your appointment. If medicine is prescribed, fill it and complete it – all of it. The last day of that antibiotic is just as important as the first. Communicate if there’s a problem. If a med seems to have awful side effects we may be able to switch to another. If you’re giving natural or homeopathic remedies, tell us about it. Information is key. Keep that follow-up appointment. If all is well and you really don’t feel you need it, call and tell us why.

True confession: Most of us went into pediatrics because a) we like hanging around kids more than grown-ups, and b) having two patients – the child and the parent – doesn’t phase us. We like it and get a thrill from seeing you leave the office with a sense of relief and comfort that all is well. That takes teamwork, and if you’re holding up your end of the bargain and still feel uncomfortable with the coach, consider joining another team. It’s your right and responsibility as a mom and as a player.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?


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One response to “Insider’s View: What Your Pediatrician Wants You To Know”

  1. Michael Glavic

    Great advice Rachel. Thanks! I might (if not probably) will direct others to it.. Oh, by the way, what do you recommend for a styie, on the eye-lid? A warm press, perhaps, of a warm and wet tea-bag, or would you recommend something else, preferably over-the-counter, as we’re not suffering immeasurably.. . where you should have the time for as much? .. . Here’s more than hoping so!

    Mike (The Primary guy, of the Primary things.. . Just ask, and *you* shall receive.. . I Feel as Understand

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