Getting the most out of your child's checkup with the pediatrician begins even before you arrive at the doctor's office. It helps to bring a written list of questions and concerns you have. If only one parent can attend the examination, be sure you both discuss the checkup ahead of time so that no one's questions get left out. Come prepared with growth charts or immunization records you may have been keeping, and details about mild illnesses or minor symptoms your child may have had since his last examination.
Doctors are endlessly busy and involved in the care of many children and families simultaneously. Nevertheless, when you are with your pediatrician, you have the right to feel that she is all yours for that time. If you have a concern you want to address in depth, she may recommend that the two of you set up another appointment or that she speak with you by phone later on. She should be a resource for any concern you have about your baby or your family. If she can't give you the information you need, she can often refer you to someone who can. If you find yourself consistently dissatisfied with the amount of support and information you are getting, it may be time to find another pediatrician with whom you feel more happy and comfortable.
In addition to using your pediatrician for preventive medicine, you should, of course, be able to contact her about problems that arise between visits. She may, for instance, have a regular hour for handling nonurgent inquiries over the telephone. For more serious illness or injury, you should always feel free to contact her.
Certain symptoms warrant an immediate call to the pediatrician. These include (but may not be limited to) severe lethargy, severe pain, the inability to walk in a child who has already mastered this skill, difficulty breathing, a neck or back injury, high fever (a rectal temperature of 105°F. or above), blueness of the lips or fingertips, dehydration (indicated by darker-than-normal urine or fewer than four wet diapers a day), or a tender or painful abdomen. In these cases, call your pediatrician and immediately tell the receptionist or nurse who answers the telephone, "This is an emergency!"
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