A friend asked me recently, "When a mother brings a child to see you, what is the one question that they ask you most often?"
Well, I'll tell you...but first I'll tell you a less commonly asked question.
I rarely get asked about vaccine safety. This may be surprising, given recent years of vaccine controversy, but most parents I encounter realize the importance of vaccinating their child against vaccine preventable illnesses. They realize that vaccines are safe and understand that research shows that there is no link to vaccines and the occurrence of autism. Most mothers are aware that there's a lot of misinformation out there pertaining to immunizations. This is encouraging to me as a pediatrician who knows that immunizations are one of the most important ways to prevent disease in children.
Ok, so what is the burning question that I get asked most often during a visit-
May not be a surprise, but here it is:
"Is this normal?"
At some point in a child's life, virtually every mother will have this question. This question can come in a variety of forms, such as a skin finding, or a toddler pulling at their ears, or a certain behavior.
As a pediatrician, my task is to try to help navigate through those conditions considered to be "within the limits of normal" and those conditions that are not normal.
It's sometimes difficult for a parent to tell if a child is pulling at their ears because they are teething, because they've discovered a protruding body part or if the child indeed has an ear infection. After a thorough exam, I may be able to provide reassurance that the toddler has just discovered their ears or I may need to prescribe an antibiotic for an ear infection.
At times, a child may have a finding that a parent previously considered normal but in fact it was caused by an underlying condition that needed medical management.
I recently had an infant that, after testing and a proper diagnosis, required medications to treat a condition that was previously thought by the mother to have been a "normal" thing that they were just doing.
That is why I never tire of this question, and am thankful that I can help provide reassurance for those things that really are "normal" and guidance and treatment for those that aren't.
If you're were thinking to yourself, I've been meaning to ask about- (fill in the blank)- then don't hesitate to give us a call... And it's helpful to remind ourselves that none of us are so called "normal" :)
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