How to talk to your child’s doctor

The autumn months bring pumpkin picking and lots of other fun family activities, but also an increase in illnesses and visits to the doctor. As a doctor and a dad, I know the importance of making the most of every trip to the pediatrician’s office. Here are a few of my favorite tips for making the most of your child’s visit to the doctor.

Offer information:

  • Tell your doctor about any change in your family’s health history. Cases of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer are examples of things your doctor should know.
  • Tell the doctor if someone else has seen your child for an illness or injury, such as emergency room or urgent care visits or a specialist.
  • Bring a list of all the medications your child is taking. This should include over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal supplements, as well as prescription medication.
  • If your child is sick, write down when the symptoms began and what the symptoms are. This is even more important if your child has a chronic or long-standing illness.

The more detail you can offer your child’s doctor, the better he or she will be able to diagnose and treat your child.

Ask questions. At regular check-ups:

  • Ask what you might need to know about caring for your child between this visit and the next one. Make sure you know when the next visit should take place.
  • Ask what changes your child might go through before your next visit such as growth, development and feeding stages. Your doctor can provide helpful nutritional and safety advice no matter your child’s age.
  • Ask where else you can get good information on parenting, safety and other related topics, such as Internet sites, books and magazines.
  • Ask if your child’s immunizations are up to date. If they are not, make a plan to get your child caught up. Getting your child immunized is one of the most important ways to prevent illness and keep your child healthy.

It is helpful to come with questions written down so you don’t forget to ask them. Also, make sure you understand the answers your doctor gives you. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. It’s our job to help explain things in simple language.

Unfortunately, you may need to wait to see your doctor. Ask front office staff if you can call before your visit to find out if things are running on time. Sometimes a little advanced planning can ease frustration and help visits run on time.

Most importantly, enjoy the time with your pediatrician. The two of you are talking about a most precious and wonderful gift – your child.

Michael Gutzeit, MD, is a pediatrician and chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

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