Communication is the key to a good relationship with your child’s doctor. Even more importantly, it may also play a role in better outcomes for your child.Asthma can be confusing even for us old pros, so you have to work hand-in-hand with your child’s doctor to find out exactly what will work for your child.
Allow ample time for your appointment.
Many doctor’s offices schedule blocks of time based on what kind of appointment you have. For example, a “recheck” may not take as much time as an appointment for someone who is a new patient. Whether you are a new patient or not, if you have a lot of questions let the person scheduling the appointment know to allow for more time.
Write down your questions ahead of time.
Take a moment prior to your appointment to write down any questions you have, leaving room to jot down answers. Let your physician know that you have some things you need cleared up. Some questions you may have are:
What are the risks of oral steroids?
What triggers should we remove to improve our child’s breathing?
Do we need allergy testing or an EpiPen?
What testing are we doing and how accurate are the tests?
What do we do in an asthma emergency if the doctor’s office is closed?
Can you show me how to use the inhaler and spacer correctly before we leave?
Develop a timeline with your physician.
A timeline is basically a guide for how long to proceed with the current treatment before trying something else or contacting the physician. For example, let’s say your physician wants you to try an increased dose of steroids to get your child’s asthma symptoms under control. You need to be aware of how long it takes for the medication change to work, possible side effects, what time of day to take it, what to do if you don’t see any change (or things get worse), and at what point to contact your physician.
Determine the best way to contact your physician.
Before you leave the office, be sure to discuss the best way to keep in touch between appointments. It is especially important to know if there are special after-hours or weekend numbers to reach a physician or when you should go to the emergency room. Let’s be clear: If your child is having a breathing emergency call 9-1-1! It’s always going to be faster than you driving and they can provide medical treatment in the ambulance that could save your child’s life.
Don’t be afraid to find a new doctor.
Remember that your child’s health is most important. So, if you just can’t communicate well with your doctor despite your best efforts, don’t be afraid to look for a new physician. It doesn’t necessarily mean the doctor isn’t a good one — it could simply be a personality difference. If your main issue is with the staff you have to deal with, not the doctor, be sure to let the doctor know. Often they can remedy the situation, but they can’t change anything if you don’t speak up.
For more tips on communicating with your doctor check out the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center’s patient education material.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.