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By Dr. Jane Sadler

Dallas Morning News

“Does my child really need professional medical attention for this ailment?” You might think that would be an easy question for a doctor to answer.

No matter who you are, it can be difficult to make objective decisions as to how to respond when your child is ill. Sometimes, being a physician can make personal family medical decisions even harder.

I have sat next to my sickly child in an ER, wondering whether I really needed to be there while she lay uncomfortably on the examining room table. I have held the exhausted body of my infant son whose cough I could not control and whose breathing could not be slowed, agonizing about my decision to keep him at home and observe him rather than take him to the emergency room for more complete evaluation.

I have heard myself providing my daughter’s doctors with nearly exaggerated descriptions of her symptoms in an effort to persuade them she truly needed to seek medical attention.

I suspect there are many mother and father medical providers who have the same issues. I also share the concerns of non-medically trained parents who experience the same emotional struggles that come with determining whether to seek medical attention for our children.

We have all heard the importance of avoiding unnecessary testing, radiation exposure (from X-rays) and use of antibiotics in our children. Yet when it comes to our own children, we want tests to ensure that they are absolutely healthy.

Based on my experience managing ill patients who may have delayed seeking medical help, I may be quicker to pull the trigger on evaluation and treatment of my own family (please do not tell my kids’ doctors).

The bottom line is that I know I can never be truly confident in my medical knowledge when it comes to my own loved ones. I have far more certainty in my ability to treat my patients than my family, and that will never change.

Sometimes, picking up the phone and making a simple call to the doctor can provide reassuring direction when it comes to your child’s medical needs. It is never wrong to call your doctor or take your child to the office for evaluation if you sense a medical necessity. We all have limits in our comfort levels in treating our children at home.

It is always easier for a doctor to treat a child a little bit early in the course of an illness than a little bit too late.