Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unsolicited Medical Advice- Is Holding One's Tongue Always the Right Choice?

My family was invited to a religious function followed by dinner at our place of worship tonight, and sitting with us was an adorable one year old girl with a horrible case of eczema all over her face. The meal consisted of egg-covered chicken, a peanut-based stew, and a coconut-flavored dessert. (As you can probably guess, son #1 didn't do a whole lot of eating at this event...) ;)

The little girl's mom offered her bites of the meal, which the baby promptly refused. Throughout the dinner, I was distracted by the thought that the child's skin condition may very well have its roots in the food she was being fed. It was all I could do to keep from blurting out, "I'm sorry, but I noticed that your daughter has a pretty severe case of eczema. Has she been tested for food allergies?"

Now, I know that this sounds like an unabashed plug for my profession. That's why I never said anything... and now, I am kicking myself. I feel like I let slip away from me an opportunity to truly help a suffering child.

As a physician, I struggle with these boundaries on a fairly regular basis. I certainly don't want to overstep my bounds and offend someone, or seem as though I'm fishing for business. However, I also don't want to ignore a problem that seems to be screaming for my attention- what if this child's pediatrician isn't aware that approximately one-third of children under the age of 3 years with moderate to severe eczema have clinically significant food allergies? Wouldn't this mom want to know? If it would help my child, I'd want to know...

I hope I see this family again at a future function- maybe next time, I'll take a deep breath, offer my opinion, and hope that I don't get clocked in the face (after all, I am still recovering from the grocery cart fiasco!).

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