Thursday, May 27, 2010

Doctors are not infallible...

Doctors are not infallible, and it's important that we know it even if they don't. The intuition of a father or mother is often worth as much as the education and experience a doctor has, and we should not be afraid to assert ourselves on behalf of our children.

About a year ago my oldest (previously non-allergic) daughter was on Augmentin for pneumonia and developed hives. The doctor at the emergency room told me to give her Benadryl and finish off the last 4 days of the prescription. I was a little shocked at this advice, but I thought for a moment and then said, "I guess as long as I have her sister's Epipen right next to me, I could give her another dose of this." The doctor left the room for a moment to consult with another pediatrician, and returned with a prescription for a different antibiotic.

This doctor's clinical knowledge initially interfered with her ability to make a reasonable decision in this situation. She had learned in medical school and in practice that children sometimes develop hives when they have a virus, influenza, or other types of illnesses. Most likely, my daughter's hives were caused by influenza, which is also what made her susceptible to bacterial pneumonia and led to her treatment with antibiotics in the first place. However, on the outside chance that the hives were from the Augmentin, any doctor worth his salt would change the prescription. Her attitude reminded me of the saying, "Shoot first, ask questions later." My preference, which was honored, is to avoid anything that might be causing the hives and later have an oral challenge.

Since we haven't done the challenge yet, I don't know if my daughter is really allergic to amoxicillan or not. But I am grateful that when I persisted, the doctor listened to my concern and gave my daughter a new prescription. Changing antibiotics certainly didn't hurt her, and continuing Augmentin could have been disastrous. When dealing with doctors, remember that they are people and they make mistakes too--if you feel uncomfortable, push until you get the answers you need. No one is completely infallible!


  1. I have always had allergies but they weren't that big of a deal. Lately my chest has been getting so tight and I can't breath. I think it's time to see an allergy doctor in Richmond but I'm a little nervous. I also don't want my back poked a thousand times.

  2. Stacey, you should talk to the doctor about what he/she is recommending for testing and tell him your concerns. A good doctor will work with you even if you have fears or reservations.