For many of us, the list of questions we generate for our kid’s doctor can sometimes take on a life of its own. Every possible ailment, behavior problem and rash our kids present has its own special place on the back of our grocery list. And when the answers on Dr. Google leave us even more confused than when we started surfing the web, having a good pediatrician you trust is sometimes the only way to calm the anxiety.
Well-child visits come around only once a year, and many parents use this as the golden opportunity to ask their doctor everything under the sun. And when you consider that most visits are around 15 to 30 minutes, coming to the appointment prepared is essential. We asked Washington-based pediatrician Dr. Niran Al-Agba the five questions she wishes parents would ask when they come to their child’s appointment.
1. What counts as a fever?
Have you ever gotten a call from your child’s school asking you to come pick them up because they have a temperature of 99.9? Guess what — that’s not a fever. Al-Agba says that in kids under 3 months of age, a temperature of 100.4 and above is what constitutes a fever. And after 3 months of age, the number rises to 101 and above. When the temps hit this level, she recommends calling the doctor up until 1 year of age. As kids get older, their appearance (lethargic, poor color, etc), combined with decreased appetite, mood, etc., and a fever over 101 factors in greatly when deciding whether to call the office or not. However, she advises moms to trust their gut, and if something doesn’t seem right, always call and ask.
2. What do I give to rehydrate my child?
If you suspect your child is dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, knowing how to rehydrate them is critical. Al-Agba recommends oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte when hydrating ill kids. Other acceptable options are juice and ice pops, but Al-Agba notes that these should not be used as the sole source of hydration. And water or sports drinks aren’t the best options for rehydration. “Water should never be used and sports drinks do not have the full spectrum of electrolytes necessary in the face of vomiting and diarrhea,” she explains. Remember, avoid milk products after vomiting.
3. What is a good OTC remedy for the most common upper-respiratory illnesses?
Al-Agba says the best remedy for mild upper-respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, sore throat, etc.) is honey. She recommends 1 teaspoon, three times a day taken straight out of the jar or mixed with warm tea and lemon. However, honey shouldn’t be used in kids under 12 months old. For older kids, most illnesses should be turning the corner on symptoms by Day 5 to 7, but if you are past that time frame or develop a fever mid-illness, call your doctor.
4. What are the symptoms of constipation?
Al-Agba treats hundreds of kids for constipation and says many parents are not aware of the signs and symptoms. Pooping infrequently and stool that looks like hard, round balls are the first signs of constipation. If your child is going to the bathroom infrequently, straining when they are in there and has hard stools and belly pain after eating, it may be time to ask the doctor about constipation remedies. She tells parents to pay particular attention to what their child’s stool looks like, keep a note of the last time they went to the toilet and record the frequency of abdominal pain.
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5. What is a worrisome rash or dots on skin?
Rashes are one of the most common ailments for kids and reasons for doctor’s visits. “A rash or red dots that don’t blanch when you push on it is considered worrisome — this is almost always something medically important,” says Al-Agba. Petechiae are round pinpoint spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding. The bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple. They commonly appear in clusters and may look like a rash. Usually flat to the touch, petechiae don’t lose color when you press on them. According to Al-Agba, this can be a sign of a serious infection, autoimmune disease or allergy.
Developing a trusting relationship with your child’s doctor can help you feel more comfortable asking all sorts of questions regarding your son’s or daughter’s health. And for parents who aren’t sure where to start (or stop) on their list, sometimes asking one simple question such as, “What questions haven’t I asked that I should have?” can begin to create a relationship of support and trust.