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What Your Pediatrician Wishes You Knew

Be Practical

Worrying about your child's health is completely natural. But there's good worry and bad worry. Good worry is fretting over a fever that won't subside. Bad worry is harboring the fear that your child has a rare and deadly condition -- without any confirmation by a medical professional.

So maybe your son has a high fever. Or your daughter has a cough that's lasted a week. Perhaps he or she hasn't been eating or sleeping as well as usual. Should you arrange a visit to the pediatrician? When in doubt, you should always call the doctor. Some pediatricians' offices even have call times set up each day when you can dial in and speak directly with your child's doctor or nurse. When you speak with the pediatrician or office staff, you might then be advised to either bring your child in or to handle his or her symptoms at home. Some manifestations are easy for the doctor to evaluate over the phone; others require an in-person examination.

If your child's condition seems unusual to you, it's best to schedule an appointment. During the visit, feel free to express your concerns. Most doctors appreciate informed patients, so share with the pediatrician anything you may have read or seen that you think applies to your child. However, also know that the average pediatrician is highly informed when it comes to childhood diseases and conditions. In addition, you should be aware that regular checkups and immunizations can keep illnesses at bay -- or catch them early, should they arise.

And speaking of immunizations, something your pediatrician definitely wants you to know is that childhood vaccinations are advisable and important to your child's well-being. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that numerous panels of experts have repeatedly determined the safety of vaccines. Each vaccine must go through rigorous testing before it is approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA). While most medical experts will vouch for the safety of vaccinations, there have been rare cases of reactions to vaccines that have raised doubts among some parents about their safety. In a few cases, courts have determined that vaccines caused or worsened illnesses in those particular children. Thimerosal, an ethylmercury-containing preservative that was once frequently used in vaccines, is believed by some to be the culprit in incidences where a child has had a reaction to immunizations. In response, the FDA began working with vaccine manufacturers to see that the preservative was removed or reduced to trace levels in all vaccines licensed after 1999 -- except the flu vaccine, which is available with or without thimerosal.

Medical experts emphasize that it is potentially very dangerous to let your child go without vaccinations. However, if you still have concerns about his or her safety, you should feel comfortable in discussing the subject with your pediatrician. He or she can help ease your fears and provide you with more information on the safety of vaccinations.