Monday, August 17, 2015


Mothers (and pediatricians) know best

“Mother knows best.” We have tossed around this adage for ages, yet I am just recently grasping how true this is as I go through medical school. My mother is a pediatrician at the Norwich Pediatric Group. As I see patients in clinical settings, I have come to realize how important it is to listen to your parents and your pediatrician.

Here are some pieces of advice that my mother gave me from the standpoint of a pediatrician that I am now using in my clinical experiences, and they are also important for parents to know when visiting their children’s pediatrician.

Vaccines are not the enemy
Even though my brothers and I may have found shots terrifying as a child (one brother even hid behind a trash can), my mom always had us vaccinated and because of this we were relatively healthy kids.

Vaccinations are an important way to prevent illness. While some illnesses, like chicken pox, may not have a dire consequence on a teenager, when people choose not to get vaccinated these illnesses can spread to more vulnerable members of the community including infants and the elderly or other populations with compromised immune systems like those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. In these populations, even something like the chicken pox can have a substantial and sometimes deadly impact.

We need to protect not only ourselves but also the community at large and vaccinations are an important component of that. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a recommended vaccination schedule for children ages 0-18 that can be found at

Antibiotics are not always the answer
We are lucky enough to live in a time when bacterial infections that used to leave people ill for months or cause fatalities are now simply cured with a small course of antibiotics.

They may taste “yucky” (something I recall telling my mom on more than one occasion), but antibiotics help you overcome illness. That being said, antibiotics will not affect the progression of an illness if it is viral. This means that cold that you or your son or daughter had last month might not have required medication.

In fact, the more we use antibiotics unnecessarily the more we encounter antibiotic resistance. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published in the July issue of Pediatrics (online edition, print copy in August edition) that there is still a misunderstanding in parent populations, especially of children ages 0-6, as to when antibiotics are truly needed. Trust your pediatrician -- if he or she says a certain illness does or does not require an antibiotic, follow their instructions.

See your doctor regularly
Even if you are feeling symptom-free it is important to keep regular physical examinations to assure that any health problems that might arise can be caught and treated early. It is much more difficult to treat illnesses when they have progressed.

It is important to realize that regular physicals are a way to keep your child up to date on immunizations and that schools often require these examinations and paperwork to be filled out by your a pediatrician. But book early! Pediatrician’s offices get swamped with back-to-school visits so the best way to assure that your child is ready for school is to make an appointment as early as you can and bring any school paperwork with you when you come for the visit.

Health starts in the family
“Monkey see monkey do,” or in other words children learn and do what they see. If parents and family members maintain a poor diet consisting of junk food, and do very little physical activity, chances are that the children will mirror these behaviors.

Try to set a good example for your child. I am lucky in that I grew up with a family that loved to play outside and take the dogs for walks at Bluff Point in Groton. Even now I come home for Sunday morning runs on River Road in Mystic with my parents.

Bring the kids to pick out new healthy foods at a Farmer’s Market or supermarket, which gets them involved and can make eating healthy more exciting. My mom and I recently made purple string beans from a Farmer’s Market with my younger cousins, which we dubbed “magic beans” because they turn green when you cook them. Regardless of how you choose to set healthy examples the bottom line is the health of a child takes the whole family.

No one is perfect, but while we may hate to admit it, our parents often do know what they are talking about, as does your child’s pediatrician.

Katelyn Cusmano is a Backus Hospital Volunteer and a UConn Medical School MD Candidate for the class of 2018. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Cusmano or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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