Maneuvering the maze of medical advice

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I should start off by saying, I’m incredibly lucky to have children that are generally in great health. Knock on wood, we haven’t had to take G to the hospital for anything since she was four days old and still a little jaundiced.

In the past six months we have taken little g to the children’s hospital for breathing issues four times and I am reminded of just how lucky we are each time we are there. Our situation has been relatively minor compared with some of the parents I have met.

Nevertheless, figuring out how best to care for your child is not easy! On a recent visit to the hospital we were chided for putting little g on antibiotics (on the orders of a doctor) and then walked out with a prescription for a different type of antibiotic. I actually asked the doctor:

“at what point, exactly, am I supposed to ignore a doctor’s orders?”

It’s not the first time I’ve wondered that.

When big G was a baby, she was incredibly fussy and very gassy. I did some googling during late-night feeding sessions and decided to try to cut some foods from my diet to see if it would help. To some degree it did.

When I mentioned it to my doctor she started asking about symptoms. I said ‘no’ to everything she asked and yet she decided my daughter had reflux and needed medication. I really didn’t agree, but I ignored my gut because I’m not a medical expert and the doctor is. But the medicine seemed to make things even worse.

We switched G to a pediatrician who immediately suggested taking her off medication and trying to eliminate some foods from my diet.

Should I have just ignored the previous doctor’s orders?

When little g was six- or seven-months old, his doctor recommended antibiotics for a sore throat. I didn’t really love the idea of it. We are constantly being told it’s best to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics and something in my gut felt like he didn’t really need them. But she’s the doctor, so I filled the prescription.

A few days later, he had a rash and we went to a clinic where we were told he was likely allergic to the penicillin and didn’t need antibiotics anyhow.

Should I have ignored the original diagnosis?

During our recent visit to the hospital I was asked if he was allergic to any medications. I told the doctor the story about the rash, but said I personally didn’t believe he was allergic, though I clearly had no medical backing to my hunch. She decided to test him since we were in the hospital and it turns out he’s not allergic.

I don’t know why I thought this would be more black and white.

Now we have to decide whether we keep the little guy on a steroid inhaler for the duration of the cold season as a precautionary measure. The doctor who prescribed it said “it seems funny, to give him a steroid to avoid a steroid, but this one is better than what he gets when he’s in respiratory distress at the hospital.” He said we could try to avoid steroids altogether by being vigilant with a different inhaler at the signs of a virus but if we do it wrong, we end up back in the hospital, he ends up back on a stronger steroid, and we end up staying home and up at night worrying about his breathing.

I’m seeing now, what others who have had to deal with more serious health issues have learned: sometimes you need to arm yourself with some knowledge and trust your gut.

The doctor at the children’s hospital said to always make sure you know exactly what the doctor is treating. Which, I assume, means you also have to have a sense of what treatment for that condition should look like (example – she told me you never treat a respiratory issue in a child with antibiotics unless you’ve had a chest x-ray and diagnosis of pneumonia).

That feels like a lot of responsibility. But then, that’s parenting in a nutshell, isn’t it?




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