Children’s illnesses can be unpredictable

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

I spent most of this past week at the pediatrician’s office. As every parent of a sick child knows, some days our main activity is getting to the doctor and waiting to see the person who makes our life easier with the right medicine, quickly transforming a cranky child back to our little darling.

My oldest daughter, Luisa, came home from school with what I thought was a stomach virus. She developed a high fever, and the next day she was diagnosed with a strep infection.

With four other children, I was concerned that all of them would get it, and asked that they too be checked. The doctor told me he was too busy covering for another physician in the same practice, and added confidently, “It’s very rare for children under 5 years old to get strep.”

Five hours later, back at home, Anna, my 4-year-old, had an upset stomach and started running a high fever. I immediately called the doctor’s office and asked if they could prescribe the same antibiotic Luisa was on.

I couldn’t get past the nurse. She explained that they couldn’t prescribe antibiotic over the phone.

Great, I got back in the car and drove to the doctor’s office with all five children. Naturally, we had to wait in the sick children area, aka germ factory. I could see us getting sicker just sitting in this overcrowded space full of ill children, alas half of them my own.

There was no way I could possibly tell my little ones not to breath too close to the children who were coughing up part of their lungs, when we waited an hour and a half just to get into a room.

I finally saw the pediatrician, but couldn’t manage to smile or make small talk. I stared straight ahead, ignoring my four crying children, and hoped for the visit to be over as soon as possible. This time the doctor also swabbed my daughter Eva, who is 3, but said that the baby, who is 2 and a half months old, and Matteo, who is 11 months old, would certainly not catch it. Children under a year old almost never get strep.

Forward to the next day. Matteo had a temperature of 103.4 and couldn’t stop crying. At this point I called the doctor’s office, annoyed. “It’s obvious Matteo has strep. Can you help me out?” Again, the nurse told me I had to come in.

So, for the third time in three days, I drove back to the pediatrician. I was ready to tell him how difficult it was for me to go back and forth to his office when Matteo obviously had strep.

Except that when they swabbed Matteo’s throat, it came back with a negative result. To my enormous surprise he didn’t have strep. In fact, he didn’t have an ear infection or anything else that would warrant a course of antibiotic.

“This is why we have to see children in the office, Mrs. Doberman. We can’t prescribe the antibiotic over the phone, even if it’s reasonable to assume so.”

I learned my lesson this week. There is a reason why physicians put regulations in place.

I will always follow doctor’s orders without complaints or bad attitudes. More importantly I will move next door to the pediatrician’s office.

After all it’s the one place where I’ll spend most of my time for the next 15 years.