There is no question that just by virtue of their profession, pediatricians are among the most patient of doctors. Not only do they routinely have to deal with sick and unhappy children, but they also must manage the parents.
However, while in the throes of taking temperatures and soothing temper tantrums, there are many things pediatricians wish they could tell you. To begin with, they’re people too. “We may be pediatricians, but we are also human beings,” says board certified pediatrician Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP in Vienna, VA. “Our kids get sick and throw fits in the grocery store just like anyone else’s. We get the parenting struggle!”
With that in mind, here are some other things they’d like to get off their stethoscopes while listening to your child’s cough.
Sometimes We Don’t Have the Answers Right Away
“Keep in mind that it’s not always possible for everything to be solved over the phone. Sometimes we can diagnose a rash on zoom or from the picture on our smartphones, but sometimes it is much better to be evaluated in the office.” — Max Lins, MD, Leesburg/Purcellville, VA
“We have been well trained but there are always cases that may arise where we don’t have an instant answer. A good pediatrician will tell you that they will need some more time for research and discussion with their colleagues. I have found that being open and honest with the families I serve has always been appreciated.” — Divina Lopez, MD, Brooklyn, NY
Know That We Believe You!
“Always trust your gut. Your motherly intuition is your superpower. My advice to you is, if the medical needs of your child are not being met by your doctor, it’s totally okay to switch. Don’t wait for approval from your friends and family—just do it! You deserve a pediatrician that listens to you, values you as a parent, and cares for the medical needs of your child.” — Maria Ortiz-Tweed, MD, Tampa FL
“When you tell us something is wrong with your baby or child, we believe you! We know that you know your child better than anyone else.” — Dr. Segura
But Please Don’t Self Diagnose
“Dr. Google is a great tool, and while it is good to educate ourselves about medical things, it is not a substitute for a professional evaluation. Also, for the new moms out there, try not to listen to your parents all the time. Half of what they did back then was wrong or has changed.” — Dr. Lins
When They Swallow Bleach, Don’t Call Us, Call Poison Control
“As a physician and a mom, I really wish more parents knew about Poison Control. It’s a judgement-free zone because trust me, they have heard it all! Even the most conscientious parents find themselves needing Poison Control. Your little witch just marinated herself in glow stick fluid? Poison Control. Your gifted kindergartner just ate a chunk of drywall? Poison Control. Your teen just pranked you by putting eye drops in your coffee? Ground him… and use Poison Control. I tell every parent I know to save 1(800)222-1222 and POISON.ORG in their phones, and don’t hesitate to use this amazing—and free—resource.” — Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, Washington, DC
Bring Your Questions, But Please Stay on Topic
“Always come prepared to your visits with questions. We’d rather answer them while you are in the office and not at 11 pm. Also, if your appointment is for your son, don’t spend half of the time with your doctor asking questions about your daughter.” — Dr. Lins
“During these trying times of the COVID pandemic, please don’t ask me questions to which I have no answers, like should we keep our nanny, or can I take my kids to Disney? I would say everyone has their own risk tolerance—we all know there are inherent risks right now—but these are personal decisions. And I’m exhausted trying to make them for my own family.”
— Lauren Adler, MD, Mount Kisco, NY
It’s Not Always an Emergency When Your Kid Gets Sick
“Fever is not dangerous! It is part of your body’s immune system fighting an infection.”
— Dr. Adler
“Getting sick sometimes is a normal part of life. It actually helps us build immunity. Fever does not need to be scary, sometimes it is a good indicator of an illness. There is no right temperature that requires you to take your child to the Emergency room. Also, your child does not need antibiotics for a cold just because their mucous turns green. Duration of the illness is key!” — Dr. Lins
Please Vaccinate Your Children — We Do!
“I wish more parents understood the importance of keeping their children up to date on all recommended vaccines. Although most parents believe in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, misinformation has caused fear among some parents. I often say to parents: You would never put your child in a car without a seatbelt so why would you risk sending them to school without recommended vaccinations? As a pediatrician, I encourage parents to ask questions and openly share their concerns so that I can listen and provide straightforward answers and offer advice.” — Patricia N. Whitley-Williams, MD, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), New Brunswick, NJ
“We vaccinate our kids according to the recommended American Academy of Pediatrics schedule because we want to protect our kids from preventable and sometimes life-threatening illnesses as soon as we possibly can. We know that the vaccines we recommend are safe and effective.” — Dr. Segura
Don’t Take Your Newborn to the Mall
“Please avoid taking your newborn to crowded public places for the first two months of life—before the first set of vaccinations. Especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep your baby home, and make sure visitors always wash their hands before touching your precious baby. Remember, you are the parents, you make the rules, no matter what others say or think!” — Dr. Ortiz-Tweed
It’s Perfectly Fine to Give Your Baby Formula
“We will never judge you as a parent if you decide to formula feed. We know how challenging breastfeeding and pumping are. Many of us pediatricians have had to supplement with formula or completely switch over to formula to feed our own babies. Your baby will be fine, and yes, your baby can grow up to be anything they wish to be—as evidenced by this doctor/mom who was formula-fed as a baby.” — Dr. Segura
“At the pediatrician visit, your child’s height and weight percentiles are not their report card! Parents often come in the office asking, ‘What percent is he/she at?’ If, for instance, your child is at the 10th percentile for height, that could be normal if that is where your child has been trending on previous measurements. The same height percentile could be concerning if it represents a sudden drop from prior measurements. Most importantly, we care about your child’s growth trend and not the absolute percentile number.” —Dr. Segura
Give Things a Little Time to Resolve
“When you give a fever reducer medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen, wait a while for the fever to come down; think of body temperature as a thermostat. If your child is sick and not eating, hydration is more important; their appetite will come back when the illness resolves. Also, when your child has many colds during the year, it does not mean he/she is immunodeficient.” — Dr. Lins
Quit with the Comparisons
“Please try not to compare your child’s developmental milestones to a peer or a sibling! It’s not a race! If your child is slower to walk and run, that does not mean they cannot be a college athlete! Similarly, being the earliest talker won’t ensure they will be the valedictorian of their high school! If you have specific developmental concerns, talk to your pediatrician as we are here to help.” — Dr. Segura
“Your child is not your mini-me. Often parents view their children as a smaller version of themselves which can cause some very harmful and unhealthy emotional damage to their child without even realizing it. When a child feels this comparison or pressure to be someone that they are not it may affect their self-esteem and confidence, especially when they cannot live up to their parents’ expectations.” — Dr. Lopez.
Remember that Drowning Can Happen Really Fast
“Children must be supervised at all times when they’re in water. Most parents do not know that a child can drown in less than two inches of water! In other words, a child can drown in an inflatable pool, a bathtub, a sink, a toilet bowl, or even a bucket. Basically, anywhere there’s standing water, especially at home! And it only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. The risk of drowning is real.” — Dr. Ortiz-Tweed
Please Keep in Mind That “the Doctor’s Office” is Our Workspace
“Does your toddler really need to eat goldfish in my office? I’d prefer if they wait 20 minutes and have their snack—and leave their crumbs—in your car. Also, please don’t throw your baby’s stinky diaper in my garbage, I need to spend the rest of the day here.” — Dr. Adler
Don’t Forget That a Little Thanks Goes a Long Way!
“Our front desk and nurses are vital part of our practice, don’t take things out on them if you are stressed.” — Dr. Lins
“We are privileged to care for children, but this job can also be grueling, especially during a pandemic. You would be surprised how few people will thank us for all of the middle-of-the-night calls, weekends, etc. that we do daily. A note of gratitude or a holiday card goes a very long way, and we absolutely love receiving them!” — Dr. Segura