Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician


Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician

Mental Health.The Flu.Whooping Cough
Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C
By Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C
Oct 07, 2019
A mom and dad with their toddler asking their pediatrician questions

For children, health is about much more than whether they can do pull-ups, do a toe touch, or run a mile. It is an all-encompassing measure that includes their physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral status. As a parent, it can feel like raising a healthy child is akin to navigating a wide ocean without a compass. Luckily, you have a great resource at your fingertips when it comes to staying on track: your child’s pediatrician. You may find yourself asking, “What should I know about my child’s health?” In honor of National Child Health Day, here are 10 important questions to ask your pediatrician.

1. How Can I Prevent My Child from Getting Sick?

This question will elicit more than a lecture on handwashing (though, instructing your kids on proper hand hygiene will not hurt; in fact, research shows that this alone can decrease the number of days that children miss school from the common cold).

To answer this question, your pediatrician will take into account your child’s age, past medical history, the time of year (is it flu season?), and your child’s specific risk factors—like family history. This can also be a helpful question to ask if there are specific illnesses or outbreaks in your community, such as vaccine-preventable diseases like whooping cough.

2. What Should I Do If My Child Does Get Sick?

This will allow your pediatrician to review their office’s sick visit policy (can they accommodate day-of or walk-in appointments?) and make recommendations about what to do if the illness occurs after hours or over the weekend. Some pediatricians will have an on-call person you can contact for advice, which may spare you a trip to the urgent care or ER.

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3. What Is My Child’s Dose for Over-The-Counter Medications?

Most over-the-counter medications in your medicine cabinet are weight-based. If your children have gained weight since their last visit with the pediatrician, their doses for these medications have changed. The annual check-up is the perfect time to revisit dosing schedules and make sure you are as up to date as possible in the event that illness occurs.

4. What Should We Lookout for This Year?

This question will allow you to see beyond your own blind spots, as your child’s pediatrician interacts with hundreds of families each month and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the road bumps that can occur at each stage and how to navigate them. Your pediatrician will also be able to give you a heads up about common illnesses in your child’s age group, as well as any developmental milestones on the horizon.

5. What Should My Child Be Eating?

Nutrition is one of the most important pillars of health for children, and nutrition science changes quickly. Make sure to check in with your pediatrician about the latest guidelines for your children so that you can successfully fuel their brains and bodies. For a preview, you can take a look at the current whole diet approach recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

6. What Tips Do You Have For Meeting the Guidelines for Sleep, Exercise, and Screen Time?

Asking an open-ended question like this will allow your pediatrician to share expertise beyond the blanket exercise recommendations (which, by the way, are 60 minutes a day for children six years and older). Your pediatrician can provide specific tips for healthy sleep habits and can share resources for the whole family, such as this media toolkit from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

7. How Can I Check in on My Child’s Mental and Emotional Health?

Unfortunately, depression and anxiety in children are on the rise. By asking this question, you can get direct feedback from your pediatrician about how your child is faring, and you can also open up the conversation to share observations or concerns of your own. If you mutually identify a concern, your pediatrician can make referrals to resources such as therapists, counselors, and psychologists, all of whom can be valuable assets when to comes to your child’s behavioral and emotional health.

8. Is My Child Up to Date on Vaccines?

This will force an audit of your child’s medical record, which can be an important way to ensure that you are on track. It will also prompt a discussion about certain vaccines that are advisable but not mandatory, such as the HPV vaccine, which is the only childhood vaccine that can prevent cancer.

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9. What Would You Do if This Was Your Child?

By appealing to your doctor’s personal side, this question can help your pediatrician break out of the routine of making suggestions that are based on guidelines alone. This question can be especially useful if you are helping your child navigate a specific health issue where there may be many equally reasonable treatment options from which to choose.

10. Where Do You See Opportunities for Improvement?

As someone who gets a glimpse into the wellness of many families at various points along the health spectrum, your pediatrician has a unique vantage point. However, your pediatrician is not immune to diplomacy. Asking the question in this way will force your doctor’s hand but also provide a comfortable setting in which your pediatrician can share expertise and insight without fear of being unduly critical.

Your pediatrician is an excellent resource when it comes to your child’s health. Try asking these questions at your next visit in order to revamp the routine check-up.

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C, is a nationally certified physician assistant. She currently works in emergency medicine where she sees and treats a broad spectrum of illnesses across all age ranges. She holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.