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Be an advocate for your child's health

Tips for working with your child's healthcare team.

When a child is sick, parents can feel a lot of stress and be unsure about what to do. That's natural. However, working closely with your child's doctor can help ease your mind when an illness occurs.

For you to be an effective advocate for your child, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association offer these suggestions:

Get to know your provider

Build a good relationship with your healthcare provider while your child is healthy. This will make communication easier if your child gets sick.

If you're choosing a new provider, ask if you can interview him or her. This will help you decide whether you feel comfortable with the provider. Ask:

  • What hours the office is open.
  • How to reach the provider in an emergency.
  • Whom to ask for if the provider is not available.
  • How the provider prefers to handle routine questions—by phone, email or at an office visit.

Prepare for an office visit

When your child needs an appointment, be prepared. Bring along notes that include:

  • When you first noticed symptoms of an illness. Also, note how the child's eating, sleeping and behavior may have changed.
  • Medicines your child may be taking. Include vitamins and over-the-counter remedies. Make sure the provider knows about any allergies and how your child reacts to medicines.
  • A list of questions to ask. Remember that no question is trivial. A good healthcare provider will respect your interest in your child's health. Make sure you understand the answers to your questions. Ask for an explanation if you don't. Write down the answers if you think you won't remember them.

If medicine is prescribed, find out when and how to give it, and ask about possible side effects. The pharmacist is another good source of information on giving your child medicine.

If you can, bring another adult along. One of you can focus on what the provider says while the other tends to the child's needs.

Tell your child what to expect

At least one day before the appointment, tell your child why he or she is going to the doctor. And let the child know what to expect.

Be honest. Don't say a shot won't hurt if it will. Let your child know that the provider is there to make sure he or she is healthy and strong.

What to do when you call

Feel free to contact your healthcare provider during office hours for routine questions or anytime during an emergency. Call right away if you are worried.

When you call, have a pen and paper handy to write down instructions for care. Have your child near the phone, if possible.

It will help the provider make a decision about treatment if you:

  • Take your child's temperature before you call.
  • Can tell what medicines your child is taking, if any.
  • Remind the provider about past medical problems your child has had.
  • Have an immunization record at hand.
  • Have your pharmacy phone number ready in case the provider wants to call in a prescription.

In case of emergency

A true emergency is a severe injury or illness that threatens your child's health or may cause permanent harm. If you need immediate help, call 911 right away, or call your provider's office and state that you have an emergency. You may feel more secure in an emergency if you have learned basic first aid, including CPR that is safe for infants and small children.

Reviewed 9/5/2022

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