I am not a medical professional. I am the daughter of a nurse and an architect, so my medical background is a whole lot of “I’ve seen sick and you’re not it” combined with super nice handwriting.
I have no problem with the medical community. In fact, I think they are a wealth of knowledge and a great resource for many things. I view doctors and medical professionals as partners in the care and keeping of my children.
That in mind, because of the cost and the stress of taking two small children to the doctor, plus my own appreciation for the design of the human body and it’s incredible ability to heal, I reserve office visits for issues that I can’t resolve at home.
So, how do I decide when to go? Watch. Ask. Listen. Act.
I watch the symptoms. I look for one symptom to increase in severity or in number.
I watch my children. I look for changes in their behavior, mood, sleeping and eating habits.
I ask my children how they are feeling and then listen to their responses. Kids will tell you things directly and indirectly that will give you insight into what’s going on and how serious it is. Is their cough keeping them up at night, or are they still sleeping well? Is their fever keeping them from eating, or are they hungry like normal?
I ask trusted sources to figure out what’s normal. Be careful here. The internet can be a wonderful resource, if you have a discerning palette for facts. Be sure to watch out for sites that offer paid advertising as medical insight. (My favorite source is the Mayo Clinic.)
I listen to my mom gut. That is absolutely a real thing that has helped me make the best decision for my kiddos on countless occasions.
I act. This generally looks like some manner of treatment that involves energy conservation (aka rest) and energy creation (aka food). Then I try to fight the bad and boost the good at home. And then I watch for that to work. I give it time – sometimes a day, sometimes a week – and then I adjust the plan as necessary.
For my kids (who are generally healthy), the vast majority of illnesses they have had are things that their bodies can fight off with rest, intentional nutrition, and time. At my last count, my children have averaged a true need for antibiotics once a year – but they are sick three or four times that much. The difference, for me, is simply in my patience and how long I am willing to follow the above steps, which I see as a circle and not a line.
I watch, ask, listen and act many times before they are better. I have been able to troubleshoot and treat things like ear infections, allergies, the common cold, viruses and the stomach bug all without trips to the doctor. Sometimes the action is a nap and lots of hot tea with lemon. Sometimes it’s a big bowl of oranges, hand-washing, and staying home for the day. Sometimes the action is skipping sugar for a few days and a couple steamy baths. And sometimes, the action is just to wait.
This approach is not easy, and it’s not possible for every family, but for our family it works.
What works for your family?