Updated: Jan 18
Parenting isn't easy (even for us) and doesn't come with a handbook. As pediatricians, we are here to help keep your kids happy and healthy and to help you navigate all that comes with raising a child. So here are 10 things that pediatricians want parents to know.
WE KNOW YOU'RE DOING YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST AND YOU'RE ROCKING IT!
We know you are doing everything that you can for your child. We know you're concerned with what they're eating, what they're learning, and if they're healthy overall. We know that you plan their meals, teach them, follow how they're doing in school, and try to make sure they get to bed on time. You're doing it all, even when you feel like you're not. We know it and your child knows it and is grateful (even if they don't always show it). So go easy on yourself, know that your parenting style is more than enough, and keep up the awesome work!
YOUR CHILD IS OUR PATIENT AND WE ARE A TEAM
Your child is our patient and we are here to work with you, not against you, for what your child may need. We know that you may be worried about your child and we are here to help give you clarity on what is going on with your child and what you can do to help them. If we don't feel that they need an extensive workup for minor issues, please trust us. Often, we are considering your child and may want to avoid unnecessary pain and trauma for blood draws, unnecessary exposure to radiation for XRays, unnecessary medications that may come with side effects, and so on. If your child does not really need it, we will recommend against it, even if you feel like it would calm your fears. Please trust our words and our education, training, and medical knowledge.
ROUTINE CHECKUPS ARE IMPORTANT, AND NOT JUST FOR VACCINES
Your child should come in for checkups very regularly as an infant, and at least yearly after the age of 3, even if they don't need vaccines. Routine checkups are about a lot more than just shots. We use these visits for many other things including:
checking your child's developmental and educational progress
checking that they are growing appropriately
screening for medical issues that we should know about sooner rather than later, and
answering all of your questions and concerns
These visits are important for your child's overall health and well-being, even for older children and teenagers. A sample schedule for routine checkups is below:
Newborn (first week of life)
2 weeks old
1 month old
2 months old
4 months old
6 months old
9 months old
12 months old
18 months old
2 years old
2 1/2 years (30 months) old
3 years old and then once a year thereafter until adulthood
CALL US! THE ED IS OFTEN NOT THE BEST PLACE FOR YOUR CHILD...ESPECIALLY DURING COVID
Most pediatrician offices have a 24-hour call line where you can receive medical advice from a Nurse line or directly from your pediatrician or their colleagues after normal office hours, especially if you feel like it's urgent. So most of us will encourage you to call us first. We often have next-day or same-day appointments available and can give you advice on what to do until you come in to the appointment.
Your pediatrician's office is usually much safer than the emergency room with much less risk of exposure to very sick people, especially during this global COVID pandemic. Additionally, the ED doctors do not know your child, do not know their chronic illnesses, don't have access to their medical records, and can't provide you with follow-up care.
If it is a clear emergency or your child's life is in danger, call 911 or take your child directly to the ED. But if you're not sure, you can call us first and we can help you decide if you really need to take your child there. Read more about where to take your child here: "Pediatrician, Emergency Room-or Urgent Care: How to Know Where To Go"
*Dial 911 or take your child directly to the Emergency Room if you think your child’s life is in danger
IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T TRY TO FIX IT
A good general rule of thumb when it comes to our little ones is, "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it". This means that, if it is not bothering your infant or child, most of the time it is okay to leave it alone or give it time to resolve itself. We tend to worry as parents about everything from a little congestion, to a bump here or there, to the way their foot turns in a little, and on and on. But if your child (remember, they are the patient) does not seem bothered, is still happy and playful, eating and drinking like normal, and the "issue" does not seem to be effecting them, often it is nothing to worry yourself about. However, when in doubt, this is something you can ask about at one of your child's routine checkups or make a specific appointment for if you want to be sure.
"DR. GOOGLE" IS GOOD AND BAD
These days, there is a wealth of information available at the press of a finger. Often there is more information than you know what to do with and some of that information can scare you into being concerned about things you don't need to be concerned about. Not to mention, not everything you can find online is completely accurate or factual. So, we ask, as medical professionals, please consider this when you search online and discuss with us so we can give your the correct information or direct you to reputable sources for your information.
On the flip side, while there is a lot of questionable information available online, there is also lots of great information available. Now, when we give you a medical term for a condition, like "seborrhea capitis" (hopefully followed by an explanation of what that means), you can do an internet search to find more information as well if you'd like.
HE/SHE DOESN'T ALWAYS NEED AN ANTIBIOTIC
Antibiotics are not a quick fix and can come with unwanted side effects, such as diarrhea, vomiting/upset stomach, fungal/yeast infections, and WORSE bacterial infections. Not to mention, overuse of antibiotics when they are not truly necessary leads to bigger, stronger bugs that have learned how to work against perfectly good antibiotics, requiring your child to have to be on stronger and stronger antibiotics when they do actually need them.
Childhood is ripe with viral infections, from colds to rashes to stomach bugs, and antibiotics will not help a viral infection. So unless your child has a clear bacterial infection, antibiotics will not help, and can cause harm if used inappropriately.
Also, please do not give your child doses of old (likely expired) antibiotics or medications that you have left in your cabinet or refrigerator; call or come to see us first so as not to cause your child any unnecessary harm.
HE/SHE DOESN'T ALWAYS NEED BLOODWORK, A REFERRAL, OR AN MRI
He/she doesn't always need an extensive workup. There are many childhood things that are common and don't require imaging, bloodwork, or a referral. We know that, as parents, it may be something new or worrisome for you. But, as pediatricians, we are trained to know what is common, normal, and what to be more concerned about. Plus, with your child as our patient in mind, we want to limit unnecessary exposure to painful things (like blood draws), radiation (XRays), and consider your time and energy as well going to multiple places and appointments unnecessarily, just to be told everything is fine. There are some things that will warrant these types of further evaluation. But, if we assure you it is not necessary, please trust our expertise.
Also, your child may not always need a referral. If your child has acne, eczema, chronic constipation, or you have behavior concerns, etc, discuss with us first. Many of us feel comfortable managing some of these issues or at least trying some first-line treatment before going straight to a specialist. However, we will refer to a specialist when it's clearly needed or if first-line treatments haven't worked.
INSURANCE COMPANIES HAVE MORE CONTROL THAN WE'D LIKE
Most of us, as medical providers, have daily struggles with insurance companies. So when your prescription (or other medical item) is not covered, costs you more money than you'd like or can afford, requires prior authorization, etc etc., know that it's not our fault! These types of insurance blockages are a daily headache for us as well. Most of us are dealing with at least 10 different health insurance companies, each with a long list of medications they do or don't cover, and the lists are constantly changing. It's almost impossible to keep up with...but we try our best so your child can get what they need.
If you are having an issue with insurance coverage, please be patient or give us a call because we are likely working on requesting coverage or changing to something that is covered so your child can get the care that they need.
VACCINES SAVE LIVES!
Lastly, but very important! VACCINES SAVE LIVES! There is unfortunately so much misinformation about vaccines out there and a historically justifiable mistrust of medical institutions. I cannot address all of the misconceptions in this post but here are a few.
1. Vaccines DO NOT cause autism.
2. We (doctors) get vaccines ourselves and vaccinate our own children (my 4-year old and 1-year old have received all of their vaccines and will continue to do so and my whole family gets our flu shots EVERY year...and have NEVER gotten the flu from it...because that's not a thing). https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/misconceptions.htm
3. "Big Pharma" has NOTHING to do with our recommendation to vaccinate. We DO NOT get paid to endorse or give vaccines. Medical clinics actually have to purchase commercial vaccines in order to have available to give to patients.
4. Many of us have seen children very sick children (and some that unfortunately, die) from preventable illnesses that we have vaccines to protect against.
Ask any older pediatrician how many babies they saw in intensive care units (ICUs) on ventilators and other life support with meningitis and severe pneumonia before Hib and PCV13 vaccines were widely available...but now see virtually none of these illnesses.
In some underdeveloped countries, people still suffer from debilitating diseases like polio due to lack of access to vaccines, but polio has been eradicated in the U.S. as of 1979, thanks to vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/polio.html
Many of us pediatricians have seen children (often those too young to be vaccinated) w/ severe chickenpox, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus paralysis, etc in ICUs requiring breathing support, feeding tubes, multiple daily medications, etc to save their life from a preventable illness.
These are just a few of the reasons to consider vaccinating your child if you have been on the fence. If you're still undecided, consider scheduling an appointment with your child's pediatrician just to talk about vaccination.
More info here on why to consider vaccination:
Parents, we love you too! And most importantly, we love your kids!
We're in this together! Keep rocking it!
Read the companion piece: "10 Things Parents Want Their Pediatrician To Know"
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All content on this website, including medical opinion and any other health-related information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this website and the information contained does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor before starting any specific treatment plan.