Getting the Most from Your Doctor Visit

By Heather Legg

Anytime you go to the doctor, whether it’s for yourself or your child, the visit has the potential to be overwhelming. This can be even more so when you are going for the first time regarding a medical condition, like allergies. You need to go in with a plan to provide maximum benefit and understanding, and preferable another adult to help you stay clear, ask questions and understand, as well as remember everything. I know I often am so busy concentrating on what is being said, that once I am  our of the office, I’ve forgotten it all. Here are a few tips that may help you through a doctor’s visit, whether it’s a standard check up or your first of many.

• Before going to your visit, write down a thorough list of your questions (no matter how trivial they seem) and take the list with you, you may want to ask about medication, side effects, things to avoid, social events, follow ups, particular foods; there is a whole slew of questions out there, that’s why you need to write them down.
• Bring a pen and paper so you can take notes when speaking to your practitioner. It’s hard to absorb everything you are being told at once and having it in writing provides you an opportunity to review it later. Take the time to do it; don’t worry that he or she may be in a rush. This time is yours.
• If possible, have someone go with you. Even if you are the parent and your child is the patient, another set of adult ears is always helpful. Your partner may remember something you forget during the visit. Even if your spouse can’t go, have a grandparent of friend.
• Try to leave siblings at home if possible (we know it always isn’t, though). The more focused you can be at an appointment, the more beneficial it will be.
• Make a list of all symptoms, if possible a diary of times when symptoms are worse and the precursors to the symptoms, whether the allergy is food or environmental. Often times if you have good records your doctor can find the allergen when you have missed the connection
• Call ahead if you feel you need more time with the doctor to let the office know.
• Ask if there is someone in the office who specializes in education. Many allergists have these practitioners on staff and you can set up an appointment with them as well. They should at least have written material that you can take home. Ask if they don’t offer.
• Be persistent if you don’t understand something. Speak up and ask for it in “simpler terms,” don’t feel embarrassed, feel empowered. Don’t be afraid to ask for something to be repeated.
• Ask if there are any patients or parents you can contact that may be able to lend you support or answer any further questions. Many offices have this network and may even offer support groups for allergies and asthma.
• Be certain you understand about what to avoid and what is safe and when to use your medication.

Most importantly, remember your doctor is there to partner with you to keep you and your family healthy and safe. If you feel he or she is not providing you adequate time or information, let him know or find someone else. This is the time to demand what you want and need.

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