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How should I describe my child’s symptoms to the emergency room doctor?

Patients will say, “My daughter’s lethargic and has labored breathing,” because they just read those terms when looking up conditions on the Internet. That tells the Emergency Department (ED) doctor nothing. If a doctor says, “The child is lethargic and has labored breathing,” it means she’s semiunconscious and likely needs to go on a ventilator immediately. When a parent says it, it means she’s sniffling and watching TV instead of running around. “Respiratory distress” is another term to avoid. About ten parents a day say their child has respiratory distress. Thankfully, we see only one child a week who really does, and that child usually needs to have a breathing tube inserted. So say what you see. Is she limping? Is she cringing in pain after coughing? Nodding off at the dinner table? Say that—don’t use medical terminology.

From The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

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The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents

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The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do! "Moms and dads need expert guidelines, especially when it comes to their kids' health. This book reveals the inside strategies I use myself-I'm a parent,...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.