When you go and see your child's pediatrician, you expect to be asked quite a few questions. How long has she been sick? What symptoms does she have? What treatments have you already tried? Do they make her better or worse? These are just some of the typical questions a pediatrician will ask when you go in for a visit when your child is sick. If it seems like your pediatrician is playing "20 questions" or is on a fact-finding mission that is because they are.
The answers to these questions, and others, will help your pediatrician figure out what is wrong with your child and what the appropriate treatments will be.
Of course the physical exam is important too, but you would be surprised at how much your pediatrician relies on this history of your child's illness to make a diagnosis. In addition to answering your pediatrician's questions, you should ask your own so that you have a good idea what is wrong with your child, how you are supposed to treat her and when she should get better. Knowing the answers to the following questions can also help to relieve your anxiety, prevent misunderstandings and avoid missing complications or signs that your child is getting much sicker.
What is wrong with your child?
When your pediatrician says that your child has bronchitis, what they are really saying is your child has an infection with a virus that is causing her to have a productive cough and she should get better without antibiotics in a few weeks. If you don't understand that, you will likely be surprised when she isn't quickly getting better or why she wasn't prescribed antibiotics. So don't be afraid to ask questions about your child's diagnosis, especially if you aren't sure what the diagnosis means.
What else could it be?
Knowing that your pediatrician was thinking about these other conditions can help make you feel better if you were thinking that your child really had a brain tumor or meningitis.
What are the prescribed treatments?
If you aren't given a prescription, you should still ask about symptomatic treatments that may help your child feel better. This might include using an over-the-counter cold medicine, a cool mist humidifier and getting your child to drink lots of fluids when they have an upper respiratory tract infection.
Are there any alternative treatments?
Asking about alternative treatments can also be helpful if you aren't happy or comfortable with what your pediatrician has prescribed for your child. There is almost always more than one way to treat a child, so don't feel bad to ask about alternatives.
When should you expect her to be better?
For example, if your child is diagnosed with a cold or the flu, you shouldn't be surprised that she isn't getting better or is getting worse over the next few days. On the other hand, after getting diagnosed with an ear infection or strep throat, you should expect quick improvement over the next few days and may need to call your pediatrician if she isn't.
As important parts of this question, you should also ask about what you should do if she isn't getting better at the expected time and what signs to look for that may mean that she is really getting worse.
What could have prevented this?
Do you need to come back for a recheck?
A recheck appointment is very important though, both to make sure that your child really is doing well and to prevent further problems. They are especially important if your child has a chronic condition, like asthma, allergies, constipation or any other condition for which your child takes medicine on a daily basis.
Getting your answers
So don't be afraid to ask questions when your see your pediatrician. Remember that you both have the same goal -- to help your child get better and to keep them safe and healthy.