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Doctor Visit: Don’ts

Everyone wants the visit to the pediatrician to go well. If you avoid these things, it will help the visit go smoother. (See also article: Doctor Visit: Do’s).

  1. Do NOT lie to or trick your child. Tell your child the truth about what will happen and where they are going. I’m not advocating that you tell your child numerous times the week prior to a visit that they are going to get poked with shots, etc., but if they ask directly: “Am I getting shots?” don’t lie. Don’t tell your child that you are going elsewhere and then take your child to the doctor. Don’t say that it won’t hurt when it very well may. It is of utmost importance that you don’t lose credibility. Because when it really is ok and really won’t hurt, they need to know that you are telling them the truth.
  2. Do NOT make promises you may not be able to keep. One of the scariest parts of going to the doctor for a child is the prospect of getting poked (either by vaccinations, blood draws, or medication administration). If you promise no pokes to your child and then I discover your child needs something involving a poke, you lose trust. In the few circumstances where waiting to the next visit is an option (e.g., catching up a vaccination), it just prolongs the agony for the child.
  3. Do NOT try the sibling sneak. Every pediatrician has a name for it: “the sibling sneak,” “the 2-fer,” or the “while we’re here” approach of having the doctor look at two kids (usually siblings) in one visit. It’s the, “while we’re here can you just peek in Susie’s ear?” question that comes at the end of Timmy’s appointment. While a one minute look really isn’t that big of a deal, it can be a bigger deal if there are problems, complications, issues requiring further questioning/prescriptions, etc. It short-changes everyone. Susie doesn’t get the full time and attention she deserves (including proper documentation of her problem), the doctor is now running behind schedule, and the other patients are now waiting.

It’s Kindergarten Physical Time

It’s springtime, and that means time to register your kids for the upcoming school year. If you have a child that will be in kindergarten come this fall, you’ll need to schedule a Kindergarten Physical. Every state’s requirements are a little different. In Utah, there is a physical form, immunization form, and medication form (if applicable) for your physician to fill out. The physical form allows the school to know if there are any major medical problems they should know about or limitations in a child’s physical abilities (e.g., ability to participate fully in gym). It also has a vision screen as part of the form. The immunization form ensures that a child is up-to-date on shots. Depending on what state you live in, you may or may not be able to opt out of immunizations if you want your child to go to a public/state funded school. The medication form is for school personnel to be able to administer medications (either regularly scheduled or on an emergency basis) to your child. This is particularly necessary for children who have conditions like asthma, serious peanut allergies, seizures, etc.

What to expect during your visit?

Your pediatrician should talk with your child, and in so doing, assess his or her kindergarten readiness. Can your child carry on a conversation? Can your child follow directions? Is your child academically ready (e.g., know letters, count)? There should also be a number of questions relating to your child’s overall health (e.g., diet, sleep, exercise). The visit should include a complete head-to-toe examination (including a vision screen). There should also be a component of what is termed “anticipatory guidance.” This is the helpful teaching your doctor should do with you and your child (e.g., education on media time, car seats, healthy eating, appropriate development). Finally, if your child didn’t get them the year previous (kindergarten shots can be given any time after the age of 4), the visit will end with the vaccinations. As a side note, many offices will also do a blood test at the kindergarten physical to see if your child is anemic. This can be done as a finger poke or a full blood draw. It may be worth knowing ahead of time if your pediatrician’s office does this, so you can prep your child.

Knowing what to expect can make a huge difference in helping the visit go smoother. I can usually tell when a parent has taken the time to walk through with the child what to expect at the visit. The child isn’t bothered by being asked to wear a gown, open his/her mouth, have a light shown in the ears, etc. The only potential backfire is knowledge of the shots. Sometimes knowing that the visit is going to end in shots will cause a child to be more afraid (I get it, shots hurt). While I am a big believer in being honest and upfront with children, if your child is going to freak out for the hours before the visit and all during the visit, you may want to hold on telling him or her about the shots until moments before they happen. You know your child best and will know best how to handle knowledge about that component of the visit.

I love the Kindergarten physical visits in my schedule each day. It’s a great age, the kids are all so different, and it’s fun to see them growing up.