10 Tips for a Smooth Pediatric Visit Every Parent Should Know
Parents and caregivers know how stressful caring for a sick child can be. Parents with a newborn, infant or toddler not only need to address their child’s illness, but they have the additional difficulty of attempting to treat young children who cannot communicate how they feel, what hurts and what’s needed. Even for parents of older children, the constant worry and concern over the right thing to do is certainly no cakewalk.
In the event that your child does get sick, you can take steps to have an easier doctor’s visit and shorten the recovery period of an illness. You may have heard about – and skipped over – some of these steps in the past, thinking that they were obvious or perhaps not necessary. Others may come as a total surprise. Here are 10 pediatrician secrets every parent should know:
1. Timing at the doctor’s office matters.
Mondays have the longest wait times at doctors’ offices, as patients who get sick over the weekend all try to visit the doctor as soon as the office reopens. If you need to visit your child’s pediatrician on a Monday, try to get an appointment or go for a walk-in visit first thing in the morning. You may still have a brief wait if others have the same idea, but you’ll still spend far less time than you would have if you put off the appointment until the afternoon or evening. The less time your child spends waiting, the smoother the visit will be. For illnesses that can wait, many doctors’ offices are at their least crowded during the middle of the week around noon.
2. Your child should be registered with a primary care provider.
The last thing any parent wants to do is scramble to find a doctor who is accepting new patients on the day a child needs care. Take the time to find and register with a pediatrician – ideally one with flexible hours who is close to your home and who accepts your insurance – while your child is healthy. Additionally, you should ask the office if there is any paperwork you can fill out at home or online to cut down on your wait time.
3. Bring your child’s own toys to the office.
Many pediatricians will have toys, games and books available in the waiting room. Within typical office protocol, these will probably be cleaned, but it’s generally better to bring your child’s own toys so he or she can play or be entertained while you wait without risking contact with additional germs. A familiar toy may be comforting or a distraction for a sick child. Note that it’s important to clean your children’s toys after an illness in the same way you would wash their clothes or bed sheets.
4. Communicate your child’s fear.
Doctors can anticipate a lot of issues, but they can’t read your child’s mind. If your son or daughter is prone to throwing a tantrum or is particularly afraid of strangers, it will help immensely to let the doctor know what to expect as soon as he or she enters the exam room. This isn’t to say you can avoid every meltdown, especially with a sick child, but prepping the pediatrician can go a long way toward improving the visit.
5. Children need to wash their hands more than you think.
After using the bathroom and before eating a meal should not be the only times children wash their hands. Make sure your kids wash their hands when they come home from school or a friend’s home, and other times when they come into contact with others. They should always wash their hands after sneezing, coughing or encountering someone who is unwell. Parents should resist the urge to go overboard, though – you do not need to stock up on hand sanitizer, but a few extra sessions with soap and a sink can help prevent anything from a common cold to the flu.
6. Don’t forget to clean your screens.
Technology usage extends even to the youngest members of the family, and although most parents will jump to wash their child’s sheets, pillows and clothes and maybe even switch out a toothbrush after an illness, many will bypass cleaning all the screens their child touched. This includes tablets, cell phones, computers and televisions.
7. Children can – and should – receive a flu shot.
Children can receive the flu vaccine after six months of age. It is recommended that children get a flu shot, as they are among those who are most likely to contract the flu. Flu season begins in October and can last until May, and your child can come in contact with someone who has the flu at any time in those months.
8. Keep the whole family hydrated.
Hydration is a core component of illness prevention and helps your child overcome an illness more quickly when he or she is sick. Keeping children well-hydrated with water, instead of juice or other sugary drinks, is very important during times of good health as well as during an illness.
9. Don’t skip follow-up appointments.
Your child’s improved health should not lull you into a false sense of security. Even if your child is free of symptoms, a follow-up appointment is needed to confirm that recovery is complete and that a relapse is unlikely. If you are unsure whether a follow-up is truly needed, please contact your child’s pediatrician before canceling or skipping the appointment.
10. Consider urgent care over the emergency room.
There are specific occasions when the ER is necessary, such as for a seizure, difficulty breathing, chest pain, head injuries, deep lacerations or burns. However, many occasions in which a parent might default to the ER can be made easier – and more affordable – by choosing urgent care instead. Urgent care wait times are typically much shorter than the ER’s. Overall cost tends to be significantly cheaper, and many patients will only need to pay a copay.