Preparing for visits to doctors and other health care providers is important for a successful outcome.
It is a good idea to give questions and concerns to your health care providers ahead of time so that they can help address them and find additional resources if needed. If you have a particular concern, share it with your provider when you are scheduling your appointment so they will have the chance to prepare answers.
When evaluating your child, health care providers often ask questions about your child’s environment and consider the possible role of environmental exposures.
Unfortunately, health care providers, even doctors and nurses, typically have not had much training in health issues related to the environment. So although they recognize the importance of a child’s environment when treating health concerns, your health care provider may need to seek further information.
Information About Environmental Health
A number of organizations have stepped in to help health care providers by providing education and expertise about environmental health.
For example, the federal government agency ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) has a continuing education overview article about pediatric environmental health issues on its website.
A network of pediatric environmental health experts (Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units or PEHSUs) also has been formed to provide education and consultation resources to providers and parents who are caring for young patients with environmentally linked medical problems.
The Physicians for Social Responsibility organization has also developed and made available a number of resources for providers and parents on its website.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers multiple handouts for pediatricians about environmental health issues, including exposures to lead, arsenic, carbon monoxide, mercury, radon, electromagnetic fields, pesticides, as well as other issues, such as safe drinking water.
Your Child’s Environment
You should be prepared to answer some common medical-history and environment-related questions when you visit your doctor. Some of these questions are the following:
• Where does your child spend time?
• What type of housing and neighborhood do you live in?
• Do you have pets?
• Is your child exposed to cigarette smoke?
• What is your source of drinking water?
• What types of chemicals do you use in the home?
• Where do you, the parents, work?
• What are your and your child’s hobbies?
• What types of food do you eat?
Some of these questions will vary depending upon factors such as the child’s age and the symptoms of concern. However, these types of information are key to sorting through a patient’s medical history to assess potential environmental exposures of concern.
Environmental exposures can lead to the development of common medical problems, such as asthma, or nonspecific symptoms.
The medical evaluation can assist in determining if exposures of concern are occurring and may be causing symptoms or health problems in patients.
The medical evaluation can also help reduce or avoid future exposures.
More information on children’s health related to chemical exposure, check out the website, www.KidsChemicalSafety.org.