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Choosing a doctor for your child

Tips for choosing the right doctor for your child.

Your child's doctor will be there for your family. In illness or injury, you know where to turn.

But your family's relationship with the doctor isn't just about the bad times. It should start when your child is still healthy.

"Establishing a good relationship with a doctor is critical to your child's health," says Donald Middleton, MD, a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Regular visits are important. They help your child's doctor keep track of your child's:

  • Overall health.
  • Development.
  • Special needs.

And it's good preparation in case of illness or injury. Your child will probably feel more comfortable seeing a doctor he or she already knows.

Selecting a doctor

It's never too early to choose a doctor for your child. You can even find one before your baby is born.

And, if you move, one of the first things on your to-do list should be finding a new doctor.

Ready to look for a doctor? Take time to consider:

Specialty. Different types of doctors treat children. You might choose from:

  • Pediatricians.
  • Family doctors.
  • General practitioners.

Certification. Make sure the doctor is certified by an accredited organization, such as the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Family Medicine.

"It's really important to look for a doctor with board certification," Dr. Middleton says. "That means the doctor has been through the requisite training."

Personal recommendations. Ask friends, family and co-workers to suggest a doctor.

Comfort. Choose a doctor who makes you and your child feel comfortable.

"Your doctor should be willing to talk to you and give you the time you need," Dr.  Middleton says. "If you don't trust your doctor, you need to move on to someone else."

Overcoming fears

To a young child, going to the doctor may seem scary.

Try these tips from Dr. Middleton and the American Medical Association. They can help you ease fears and prepare your child for a doctor's visit:

  • Tell your child that the doctor is there to help.
  • Buy a toy doctor's kit. Let your child try out the toy instruments on a doll or stuffed animal.
  • Take a doll or stuffed animal to the doctor's office. Ask the doctor to examine the toy before examining your child.
  • Read your child books about visiting the doctor.
  • Be honest. Don't say a shot doesn't hurt. Tell your child it may hurt, but only for a short while.
  • Be clear. Offer a simple step-by-step description of what will take place during the visit.

Get involved

Along with helping your child get ready for a visit to the doctor, it's important for you to be prepared.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips to get the most out of a doctor's visit:

  • Make sure the doctor is aware of your child's medical history.
  • If your child is ill, describe the symptoms, when they started, and how eating, sleeping and behavior have changed.
  • Take notes of key points the doctor makes.
  • Ask questions if you do not understand something.
  • Get full instructions about any medicines prescribed. Find out how and when to administer medicines. And ask about possible side effects.

And remember, you and your doctor have the same goal in mind—the health and happiness of your child.

"The goal of any doctor is to help your child develop physically and mentally," Dr. Middleton says.

Reviewed 1/12/2022

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