Here are some suggestions for questions you may want to ask at your child's next checkup. Many people find it helpful to write down their questions in advance, since it can be hard to remember them — especially if your child's doctor also has lots of questions and information.
The two most important questions are: How is my child doing? and How am I doing as his parent?
Here are some other examples of the kinds of concerns parents often bring to their pediatricians or nurse practitioners:
Ask if there are common illnesses or accidents that are more likely to occur at your child's age. What can be done to prevent them? What should you do once they occur?
Let the doctor know what your child eats and drinks in a typical day and ask if this is sufficient. Find out if he or she would recommend a vitamin or other supplements.
Children's need for sleep changes with their age. Inadequate sleep can affect their well-being and success at school. Ask how much sleep your child needs at his age.
If your child receives a vaccination, find out how she should be feeling during the first day or so afterward. Some vaccinations have no after-effects, while others can cause soreness at the injection site or even a fever.
If your doctor prescribes a medication, find out what it is for, how you can tell it's working, how soon it should start working, how often to give it and for how many days. Be sure to ask about side effects and what to do if you notice any. Also ask about how the medication should be stored.
Many parents these days read about health, illnesses and treatments in books, magazines and on the Internet. Be sure you let your doctor know if your research about your child's health has raised questions or confusion for you. If your doctor's views conflict with other information you have, let the doctor know. He or she may be able to help you sort through the differences.
If your doctor says anything that you do not understand or that you are frightened by, disagree with or are offended by, talk it over with him or her. If you're too upset to talk at that moment, let the doctor know and insist on a phone call or another appointment to set things straight.
If you are ready to talk and the doctor starts for the door, let him know that you still have a few questions you need answered before you'll be ready to leave.
Find out how to reach the doctor if an emergency arises after the office is closed. If your doctor is unavailable, who should you call?
Distributed to New York Times Special Features