10 Things Pediatricians Want Parents to Know

Medical professionals are always “on the record,” so to speak, keeping them from giving you some mom-to-mom or parent-to-parent advice during your visit. They can certainly offer guidance when they’re off the clock, though!

One “Dr. Mom,” Sara DuMond, MD, does just that in her article, ” Top 10 Confessions of a Pediatrician.”

I’m kind of in love with this list, so I will include her highlights along with my own (non-professional) commentary.

1. We know that colds are frustrating and miserable.

DuMond: We in the medical profession have found lots of fancy-sounding terms to describe colds, from “viral upper-respiratory infection” to “purulent rhinitis.” But what we’re really telling you is that your child’s illness, uncomfortable as it is, is just a cold.

Me: Sometimes I have to roll the dice and take my child into the doctor on a hunch that there may be a sinus, ear, or throat infection. When I hear the word “virus,” I deflate because I’ve just spent my co-pay, my afternoon, and my dignity for nothing more than a dinosaur or princess sticker.

2. Fever isn’t dangerous.

DuMond: When parents frantically alternate fever-reducing medicines every three hours, put children in tepid bathwater, or sponge with cold washcloths to try to lower temperatures, pediatricians want to cry “fever phobia!” The truth is, there is no magic number at which a temperature becomes dangerously high. Even temperatures of 105 degrees won’t cause brain damage. (The one exception is a fever in a newborn. If your baby is 3 months or younger, any fever above 100.4? could be serious and warrants an immediate call to your doctor.)

Me: I am admittedly lazy when it comes to temperature taking. Unless my child head feels like it’s been held over an open flame (or I’m justifying sending him or her to school with the sniffles), I rarely use the thermometer. Why? Because it’s more trouble than it’s worth and I can tell with my my hand or lips whether it’s severe enough to warrant checking.

3. We hate the Internet.

Pediatricians working on child DuMond: Okay, so that’s not a completely fair statement. There are certainly a number of very helpful, informative, easy-to-use Web sites out there. As with anything else, however, there are a large number of sensationalizing, nonscientific sites that contain misinformation and provoke unnecessary fear and apprehension in well-intentioned parents.

Me: I am totally guilty of this parental transgression. I am the one who researches all of the ailments so I can walk into the doctor’s office knowing everything ahead of time. It’s because I’m a know-it-all (honestly), I actually like learning on my own. The problem — according to DuMond — is that there is a significant amount of sensationalized information out there. Maybe that’s why the doctors always try to shut me up …

4. We really try not to run late.

DuMond: We try hard to stay on schedule, but we hope parents will understand if we’ve chosen to take extra time to care for another child because she needs it, as opposed to speeding through each visit. We think your children’s health and everyone’s time is more valuable than that.

Me: I find this situation frustrating, I don’t actually project that onto my pediatrician. It is definitely frustrating, though. With three children (5, 3, 1), it isn’t exactly relaxing to cram into that sterile room with nothing more than drawers of medical gowns to entertain the children. I really think every examination room should have a fish tank in it. It really would solve all of the problems.

5. We really don’t mind being woken up at 3 a.m.

DuMond: We may not verbalize that to parents, but that’s the truth. Not only do we not hate it, as is commonly feared, but we expect it! We weren’t drafted into medicine, we chose it as our life’s work; and part of that means being available at all hours, no matter how big or small the problem.

Me: The first (and possibly only) question I asked when we “interviewed” our pediatrician before having our first child was whether they were okay with 3 a.m. (why is it always 3 a.m.?) phone calls. When they genuinely laughed and said it was no biggie, I felt at ease. The last thing I want is to feel like I’m bothering my pediatrician in the middle of the night.

6. When it comes to your baby’s health, don’t listen to your mother – unless she’s a practicing pediatrician.

DuMond: This one might truly get me in trouble, but what I’m referring to is the perpetuation of medical old wives’ tales from generation to generation. What exactly do I mean, you ask? Let me offer up a few examples: Constipation causes fever and ear tugging is a reliable sign of ear infections. These notions are often widely held beliefs but have no physiological basis. So while Grandma is well intentioned, think twice next time she recommends an enema to help pass the “toxins” causing Emma’s fever.

Me: I’m just going to politely nod. My mom reads all my articles.

Read our article “Wondering What to Do When Babies Get Constipated? Here’s 10 Ideas!

7. We don’t always have an answer.

DuMond: News flash: We’re not perfect. With many cases of fever, rash, and other common childhood conditions, we’re not able to pinpoint an exact cause. But based on an exam and the features of your child’s symptoms, your pediatrician should at least be able to rule out those conditions that would require immediate treatment or further testing, and should also be able to discuss the possible underlying causes and potential courses of action.

Me: As long as medical professionals treat my concerns with respect, I’m good. Would I be frustrated if something was missed? Of course. But I would be livid if something was missed because a doctor ignored my viewpoint.

8. We hate to examine ears.

DuMond: Ask any parent to name the most stressful part of their child’s doctor visit, and aside from shots, she’ll probably say the ear exam. Now, ask any pediatrician what the most stressful part of the physical exam is, and she’ll probably shout, “the ear exam!” Yes, it’s true. To the casual observer, it may seem that holding a child down, cleaning out her ears, and looking through a tiny, lighted pinpoint instrument at her eardrums is about as medically ho-hum as it gets. But it’s a painstaking, awful business that makes us want to scream like a toddler.

Me: Yeah, sorry about that.

9. We love your kids.

DuMond: Ask any pediatrician why she went into pediatrics, and her first 20 reasons will be a resounding “because I love kids.” We try to win their hearts with stickers or impromptu games of peekaboo, and we secretly hope the parents are paying attention. While we may not come right out and say it, your child (yes, even when he refuses to stand on the scale, screams and kicks at the sight of the otoscope, or suddenly develops steel-trap jaws at the mention of a tongue depressor) is a special part of why we love what we do.

Me: I feel the love from my pediatrician to the point that I am probably a major cause of No. 4 because I won’t shut up with my stories. Sorry other parents.

10. We’d like you to give yourself a break.

DuMond: What we want to tell you, off the record, is that chocolate cake for breakfast is not always a bad thing, inadvertent sunburns at the beach don’t make you a horrible mother, a pacifier dropped on the ground still tastes good to a toddler, and bedtimes are made to be missed. The list could go on and on, and while we may come across as sticklers on some things, we acknowledge that the reality of life is a far cry from what you might find in any parenting book.

Me: Whew.

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