When it comes to your little one's health, it can feel like it's you against the world. An onslaught of cold viruses, booked up GP appointments, nursery superbugs and huge A&E waiting times. I should know about the latter, being a doctor who has worked in several A&E departments in the South of England over the last few years.
This short article is about the different ways new parents can come together to stem the tide of maleficence, to overcome the fears and constraints that these modern health situations purvey. I am biased, though, as it just happens to also be the way that I view retail; we should all be able to come together to buy things for less using the Internet.
One of the hardest decisions to make is when and where to seek medical advice - should you go to A&E that you've heard horror stories about, try to book an incredibly scarce and inconvenient GP appointment, or sit it out and self-medicate? The answer clearly is not simple, and the following not intended as direct medical advice but more a framework around which to prioritise your information gathering for the decision.
1) Direct advice
Perhaps the most obvious of the lot, but seeking advice from those around you, if you can, is extremely useful. If you know anyone who works in healthcare theirs will be a good advice to take; as a rule of thumb though, take the 'I'm sure it'll be fine' advice with a pinch of salt (and refer to points 2-5 below) but take 'you need to get it seen to urgently' extremely seriously.
Don't be afraid of how you'll come across asking; some people just need to be told that it's ok to ask, and you're not a bad parent because you didn't know. There are all kinds of mixed messages out there.
2) Trusted Internet sources
The Internet has earned - and rightly so - a reputation for sometimes providing the wrong information or information in the wrong context. A reluctance to use it when something as important as your child's health is at stake is therefore completely understandable.
Running an Internet company that relies on interconnection I am obviously biased, but what the Internet does provide is access to the biggest and best resources of medical knowledge in all of human history, and information that has been correctly vetted if you know which places to look in.
So log yourself onto NHS.uk; it is one of the best health advice resources out there and for the sake of one or two words entered you will have instant relevant information that has been approved and vetted by the best clinicians in the country. As a second port of call, our blog has articles on topics like Due Date Accuracy and Top Pregnancy Mistakes to keep you on the straight and narrow. Or, you can even get yourself an online diagnosis by an IGP Doctor.
3) Good ol' fashioned telephony
Although the NHS 111 service got a lot of bad publicity when it opened, this was largely due to an underestimation of demand and a subsequent backlash in confidence loss in the service. It in fact provides an excellent triage to help your decision making; a set of pre-decided questions that will guide you and the telephone operator to the most appropriate thing to do depending on your answers. Avoiding frustration with the operator - it goes without saying - will benefit the efficiency and safety of the outcome of the phone call.
This extends the 'help each other to help ourselves' analogy further, to herd immunity. Dr Wakefield's autism link has been proven wrong over and over, and if you look at the likes of polio that has been eradicated in the UK and mumps and measles that have been prevented since mass vaccination (incidentally their neurological complications are what we're concerned about, not the rashes) you'd be wise to stay up to date.
5) The NHS
Despite what the papers tell you, the NHS is a world-renowned and revered organisation. It has been called the jewel in the British crown, and we should use it when concerned about our children. If you are worried - and as modern doctors we are trained to seek how the parent feels and to trust their instincts - then voice your concern to a health professional. Everything about our NHS systems is built around prioritisation of the most unwell, so don't be put off going to A&E or your GP until it's dangerously late.
Chris Whittle is a practising doctor in the UK, and founder of High Street Huddle, an online group buying store selling big brand baby essentials for lower prices than Amazon and other competitors.
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