An Interview with Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD

Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD, author of The Smart Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents: Expert Answers to the Questions Parents Ask Most, agreed to speak with Cornelia Griggs from The Dr. Oz Show medical unit to discuss the tenets of her new book.

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Making personal health care choices can be an overwhelming task for anyone. When it comes to making medical decisions for our children, the job becomes ever more daunting. Too many parents tend to react out of panic and stress when their child falls ill. We rush our children to the nearest doctor or hospital without a careful, informed plan. As a parent of 4 children, Dr. Oz wants to empower all parents with the knowledge and confidence to take charge of their children's healthcare - so no one is ever left sitting in a hospital room wondering how it all went wrong.


Pediatrician Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD is a nationally recognized parenting expert and an author of the new book: "The Smart Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents: Expert Answers to the Questions Parents Ask Most." A fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Jen has practiced pediatric and adolescent medicine for more than 14 years and maintains a private practice in New York City. The Dr. Oz medical unit reached out to Dr. Jen, mother of 3, to share some of her best tips to help parents make informed health choices for their children


Cornelia: Dr. Jen, what is your
best piece of advice from the book?

The main thing, which may seem simple - is that parents need to feel empowered and be an active participant. They should be the expert in their child and the doctor is an expert in medicine. Parents should always ask questions and never leave a doctor's visit without knowing what do: What do I do when I get home? What do I do if my child gets worse?

Another thing that is really important - most people don't really plan ahead for emergencies - especially when it comes to children, it's really crucial to do that.

Cornelia: What inspired you to write the book?

 I was compelled when the research from the Institute of Medicine came out - 27% of ER visit are for children, but only 6% of ERs are fully equipped to deal with children. There are misconceptions about hospitals, especially here in New York.

I've been in private practice for almost 15 years and the most common confession I hear is that parents feel that they are overwhelmed and it's scary. There's all this media and the information can be so overwhelming. How do you know that you're getting correct information? As a parent myself I understand why there is so much fear. All the information can be paralyzing. I wrote this book as an insider - a pediatrician and a mom.


You don't need to be a pediatrician - you just need to know which questions to ask!

Cornelia: What are some of the biggest mistakes parents make dealing with their child's pediatrician?

 I think parents may not do their due diligence in selecting the right doctor. People spend more time finding a flat screen TV - weighing the pros and cons and the costs - or even finding the right hairdresser.

I advise pre-planning, whether you're just looking for a new pediatrician or before you give birth. Start speaking with different people. Most of my patients come from referrals from other families. Make sure they are board certified. Make sure you do a meet and greet. Most pediatricians do that these days and people don't know.

Come early and get a sense of the office. Here's a real insider tip - talk to the office manager. You can get so much information. For example, how much vacation does the doctor take? Some people are only there half of the week.

Also ask what can be done in the office. In my office we do a lot testing. We get results back quicker. If you can get a throat culture back that day, it's much better.

See if you feel comfortable - what's your gut feeling? Do you feel like you can ask questions? New parents always have lots of questions. You can't be embarrassed. We're not here to judge. Make sure the doctor explains things in a way that makes sense to you.

Cornelia: You talk quite a bit about medication dangers in your book. What are some common misconceptions about kids and medicine?

 Children are not just little adults. Their brains are still growing so they're much more sensitive. They absorb much more - so it's amplified in children. Their liver and removal systems are less effective. That's why you need to be much more careful.

When it comes to over-the-counter medications, most parents don't look at the active ingredients. A lot of them can be gimmicks. For example, a cold medication for children may contain the same active ingredients as the adult variety, it's simply labelled differently. I also tell parents to avoid medications that have multiple ingredients. It's better to side on the idea of less is more. Most coughs go away on their own.

Cornelia: You give a great tip in your book: "Treat the child, not the fever" meaning, don't automatically treat a fever. Why is that?

We have a huge fever phobia in this country. I understand that people are scared when their child is sick. People are most scared of brain damage. It's extremely rare - the fever has to be over 106 degrees. Kids do run 104 or 105 and are running around playing. If they look happy and are laughing, if they're eating breakfast, don't feel obligated to give them medicine.

If they are really miserable - yes, give them something for the pain or the fever. Fever actually helps us fight infections if you let it be. The high temperatures can actually fight off the germs.

Cornelia: Do you think most parents worry too much or too little about their children's health?  

It's totally variable. In general, parents worry too much because they are scared of something bad happening. A little bit of fear is a good thing. This book will help you know when to worry.  


Courtesy of Free Press