Top 10 Confessions of a Pediatrician

More Truths Exposed

7. We don't always have an answer. Here's a truly tough one for most physicians -- admitting when we don't know something. 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.

8. We hate to examine ears. 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. On the other hand, on those rare occasions when we're able to successfully make a game of "looking for puppy dogs in your ears" without making a child cry, it feels as if we have just reached the peak of Mount Everest. "I did it!" we're screaming in our heads, as the crowds go wild with applause and cheers. It's the little things in a pediatrician's life that bring us the most joy!

9. We love your kids. 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.

10. We'd like you to give yourself a break. This is good advice that I not only offer up professionally but also try to adhere to personally. Believe me, when it comes to rattling off their latest feat as Supermom or opining on the latest sleep-training strategy, parents can be vicious. While the force behind these words is an honorable one (the love of our children), listening to them can be overwhelming and guilt-inducing. Even pediatricians have been on the receiving end of those evil stares you get from having your 10-month-old out at the grocery store after (gasp) 8 p.m. 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. So the next time you pull up next to a frazzled-looking mother in her minivan at a stoplight, and watch as she shoves french fries and animal crackers into the backseat toward her screaming toddler, remember she might just be someone's pediatrician! Give her a wink and a nod, and let her know you're in on her secrets.

Worthy Web Sites

Dr. DuMond's recommendations for accurate, reliable health information:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics: aap.org
  • The Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov
  • The Nemours Foundation for Children's Health: kidshealth.org

Sara DuMond, MD, is a pediatrician in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2005.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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