Often, as busy parents, we make an appointment with the doctor when our kids are sick or when they are due for their vaccinations. It makes sense, right. They have symptoms and we take them to find answers. We arrive at the doctor’s clinic, give a brief rundown of what’s happening and leave with an appropriate treatment plan.
But really, we should be using our time with healthcare professionals much more to our advantage, because when you think about it, health care is not a straightforward practice and is often multi-faceted. Those ‘small issues’ you’ve been meaning to mention to your GP could actually be hugely relevant to what’s going on.
I have three children so I know how tricky a doctor’s appointment can be. You’ve got a child on your hands feeling horrendous and sometimes you’ve got other ‘healthy’ kids in tow who don’t seem to hear or care about your pleas for them to ‘keep quiet’, ‘stop running’ or ‘don’t touch’. It’s a minefield, so it’s understandable that we want to get in and out as soon as possible.
However, taking the time to prepare for your doctor’s visit can actually give you a much better health plan overall and have a goal to provide your child with the best possible health care as they get older.
One simple step that’s helped me prepare for doctor’s visits is simply writing things down. I’ve started a book that I carry around in my handbag. It’s nestled right there in between thousands of lost sultanas, the hair ties I can never find when I need them and the endless number of toys my kids seem to need any time we leave the house.
In the notebook I just jot down thoughts and items that I need to remember. This includes health concerns that I might think 'Hmm, next time I'm at the doctor, I'll just ask them about that'. These things are usually not so overt and concerning that I'd make a special appointment to discuss, but they're enough for me to want to look into them.
At my last doctor's appointment, I had a flick through my notebook just to see if I'd written anything down and luckily I did, because it reminded me that I needed to ask the doctor for a referral for a hearing check for my eldest - something I would have totally forgotten about had I not made a note to remind myself.
There was nothing outwardly wrong with his hearing (and after investigation revealed that he was just a typical six year old with 'selected' hearing loss!) but as a mum, I wanted to check the box to make sure everything was OK.
Doctor's visits are also a great time to get the 'right' information from your health care practitioner. With so many mum-focused Facebook groups and internet experts around it’s so easy to get lost in information. The thing is though, internet research does not qualify you to hand out medical advice as much as some 'wellness experts' would have you believe. Use your time with your doctor to get the correct information on medical-related issues and when it comes to kids, vaccines.
I did just this recently with my GP. My youngest child was attending the appointment for her scheduled vaccinations and I took the time to ask my doctor about available vaccines not included on the Childhood Immunisation Schedule. In Australia, we are so lucky to have access to free vaccinations for our children, but prior to my appointment, I didn’t know that there are actually others available.
Upon my doctor's advice, I decided to immunise my children for meningococcal disease in addition to the vaccines already on the schedule.
When my daughter was three months old she was hospitalised with suspected meningococcal disease. I rushed her to hospital after she spiked a 40-degree plus temp and held her, sobbing, as doctors performed a lumbar puncture on her tiny frame. It was a horrible time and the wait was agony. Luckily for us, the rash that covered her body was a viral response but as a parent it was a real wake-up call as to the realities of the disease.
I wasn’t aware that there were several strains of the disease, and after talking to medical professionals, I learned that while rare, the effects of meningococcal disease can be devastating. Ten percent of patients may die from the disease and 20 percent may be left with life-changing disabilities like loss of limbs, hearing and brain damage. For me, the choice to vaccinate as much as possible was a no-brainer, but my decision was made after in-depth consultation with a medical professional who knew me and knew my children.
As busy as our parenting lives are, it's important that we take time to get our heads right when attending a doctor's appointment. Go there with questions - that's what your doctor is there for.
Take notes, pictures or videos even to give them a holistic picture of what life is like for your child so they can tailor the best possible health care for each member of the family.
What questions do you ask your doctor? Tell us below in the comments section.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner GSK.
Parents, make sure to ask your GP about meningococcal disease, and what vaccines your child can get to protect them.
For further information, visit Know Meningococcal.
*CDC VPD manual Chapter 8: Meningococcal disease. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.pdf
Whilst rare, meningococcal disease can progress rapidly - resulting in death within 24 hours or serious long-term disabilities, including brain damage, deafness and limb loss*. Infants, young children and adolescents are most at risk. That’s why GSK has partnered with Mamamia to increase knowledge and understanding, and to help prevent the spread and impact of this devastating disease.