A one year-old at the Ramada was fussy and congested, but my exam was normal. She had a cold, I explained. It was not serious but might last a few days. Staying in bed wouldn’t make it go away quicker. The parents should encourage the child to drink, but it was OK if she didn’t eat. They were already giving Tylenol for the fever, and that was fine. They should try to enjoy themselves.
“So she doesn’t need anything,” said the father. I assured him she didn’t.
I gave them my phone number and promised to keep in touch. They thanked me effusively as I left, but I was not fooled.
Understand their point of view. They were in a strange city on an expensive vacation, and their child was sick. Naturally, all fun was cancelled and the doctor summoned fix things.
Had I written a prescription, I would be doing what a proper doctor does. They would have given the medicine and waited. Not giving “anything” meant that I considered the illness trivial. That was clearly wrong.
Mind you, obeying long and sad experience, I had carefully explained that the child might feel under the weather for several days. They had listened and nodded, but their yearning took priority.
I intended to call in 24 hours, but the following morning their travel insurer phoned to say the parents were requesting another visit. I explained that that wasn’t necessary. I would call.
“She’s the same. The fever hasn’t gone away,” said the mother.
I repeated that this was to be expected and that she should wait. She agreed and thanked me for calling.
No one answered when I phoned the next day. The insurance agency dispatcher explained that the mother had called earlier to demand another visit, so he had sent her to an urgent care clinic.
The child had barely swallowed the first spoonful of Amoxicillin when she began to improve. By evening she was fine, and the parents were congratulating themselves. Who knows what might have happened if they hadn’t found a competent doctor?