What Your Pediatrician Wishes You Knew

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We tend to think of pediatricians as saints. They went through years of medical school with the aim of serving children and making their lives better. But like professionals in any other line of work, pediatricians have their pet peeves. And often, these issues aren't just minor annoyances -- they're problems that can prevent the doctor from effectively doing his or her job, which is to make sure their youthful patients get the best preventive care and medical treatment available.

So if you were to overhear two pediatricians chatting over coffee, what would they say they wished you -- and all of their other patients -- knew about bringing children to the doctor's office? For starters, they'd probably wish they could ease some of your fears ahead of time. In other words, your child probably isn't infected with a rare superbug you read about in a magazine. They'd also like you to help make their jobs easier -- not because they're looking to dump their responsibilities onto laypeople, but because they think it will help them better diagnose and treat your child.

You may not be a doctor, but you have a major role in making sure your little one receives the best care and treatment possible. So the next time you're getting ready for an appointment with your child's pediatrician, stop to think about the visit from a white-coat perspective. Consider not just what you need to know, but what the doctor needs to know as well. In the following pages, we'll show you how to be both practical and prepared when it comes to your child's health and wellness. Before long, your family pediatrician's secret wish will be that the rest of his or patients were more like you.

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.

Be Prepared

Help your little one get ready for a trip to the doctor by alleviating fear. Let him or her know that the doctor is there to make patients feel better.
Help your little one get ready for a trip to the doctor by alleviating fear. Let him or her know that the doctor is there to make patients feel better.
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Children can be difficult patients. At the pediatrician's office, they're reluctant, resistant and scared. Not to mention it's sometimes difficult for them and their parents to describe what's wrong. To get to the bottom of what's ailing your child, or to just get your youngster through a basic well-child exam, you need to partner with the pediatrician to ensure a successful visit. This means making sure you plan ahead for your appointment.

Begin by preparing yourself and your little one ahead of time; then stay engaged throughout the visit, say the authors of "The Smart Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents: Expert Answers to the Questions Parents Ask Most." They recommend that you:

  • Explain to your child that the trip to the doctor will help him or her feel better. Be careful not to scare him or her by using phrases like "they'll take your blood."
  • Write out a list of questions and concerns for the doctor. Check them off as you go.
  • Try to include details, like when your child's symptoms first began, when you talk to the pediatrician.
  • Never forget to inform the doctor and his or her staff of any medications and supplements your child is on.
  • Be focused on what the doctor is saying. Don't be shy about asking for clarification if something isn't clear to you.
  • If at all possible, make sure it's you who accompanies your child and not someone else. You're in the best position to answer the doctor's questions.

As you can see, the things your pediatrician wishes you knew aren't that secretive. Preparation and practicality are the keys to ensuring your child has a positive experience with his or her doctor.

Continue reading for more information on pediatrics.

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More Great Links

  • KidsHealth.org
  • HealthyChildren.org

Sources

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. "How Safe are Vaccines?" June 9, 2010. (Oct. 22, 2010)http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/pages/How-Safe-are-Vaccines.aspx
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. "When to Call Your Pediatrician." June 10, 2010. (Oct. 22, 2010)http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/health-management/pages/When-to-Call-Your-Pediatrician.aspx
  • Attkisson, Sharyl. "Vaccine Court." CBS News. June 27, 2008. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501263_162-4214847-501263.html
  • Begley, Sharon. "Vaccines and Autism: The Unending Story." Newsweek. February 25, 2009. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/lab-notes/2009/02/25/vaccines-and-autism-the-unending-story.html
  • Biskupic, Joan. "Case tests vaccine court vs. state-law claims." USA Today. Oct. 15, 2010. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2010-10-12-vaccines_N.htm
  • Jackson, Nancy. "What Your Child's Pediatrician Wants You to Know." Maryland Family. September 2006. (Oct. 22, 2010)http://news.mywebpal.com/partners/929/documents/pdfsubscribe/childsPhysician.pdf
  • SmartMoney.com. "10 Things Your Pediatrician Won't Tell You." Jan. 18, 2001. (Oct. 22, 2010)http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/deals/10-things-your-pediatrician-wont-tell-you-9889/
  • Trachtenberg, Jennifer. "Rx for success: Tips for visiting the pediatrician -- Follow this advice to ease your child's fears, avoid doctors' pet peeves." Today Books. March 17, 2010. (Oct. 22, 2010)http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/35895613#slice-2
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Thimerosal in Vaccines." (Nov. 4, 2010)http://www.fda.gov/biologicsbloodvaccines/safetyavailability/vaccinesafety/ucm096228.htm
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Thimerosal in Vaccines Questions and Answers: How does FDA evaluate vaccines to make sure they are safe?" May 1, 2009. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/ucm070430.htm
  • Wallis, Claudia. "Case Study: Autism and Vaccines." Time. March 10, 2008. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1721109,00.html