Skip to main content

The Importance of Medical Play


Last week, my 3 year old, whose asthma is generally very mild, needed a few treatments of his albuterol inhaler. Because he is unaccustomed to having the spacer device on his face, the process of administering the medication was a bit of an ordeal. When I say a bit of an ordeal, I mean kicking, screaming, tears flowing, hyperventilating -- you know, nothing I can't handle. I finally got the puffs in him, and swore to myself that we weren't going through that again. By that point, we were already late for daycare, so I left the inhaler and spacer on the coffee table and whisked the kids off to school.

That evening, as I was preparing dinner, I heard a strange musical noise, and turned to find Son #2 using his spacer as a vuvuzela. Here was the same child who only that morning was so vehemently resisting his treatment, now dancing around the kitchen with his spacer and inhaler attached to his face.


The sound might have been as annoying as anything coming out of the World Cup stands, but it was music to my ears. Left to his own devices, my child overcame his fear of the unknown by doing what children naturally do -- playing. A second treatment later that evening went remarkably smoothly.

Medical play allows children to gain familiarity with diagnostic procedures in a non-threatening environment. This type of play is especially important for children who may be undergoing chronic treatment for conditions such as asthma, immune deficiency, or cancer. However, medical play can also assist in preparing children for one-time procedures or treatments, such as allergy skin testing or vaccinations. It doesn't require a great deal of specialized equipment- a simple store-bought toy doctor's kit and a stuffed animal are a great start.


There are also a variety of excellent books written for children who require a single routine doctor's visit or chronic medical care. A quick search online or at your library or local bookstore will yield a wealth of resources.

If your child has an upcoming physician's appointment or procedure scheduled, think about incorporating medical play before, during and after the visit. It just may make things easier for everyone. Just ask my spacer/vuvuzela-playing son, who is now breathing easy.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Keratosis Pilaris - Or, Why My Kid Looks Like a Plucked Chicken

The skin is the body's largest organ. The condition of the skin is, in many ways, a window into our internal health. Therefore, it is only natural that people become immediately concerned by rashes. We often neglect our own elevated blood pressure, achey joints, or other ailments. The onset of a new rash, on the other hand, can quickly lead to a call to the doctor.

Interestingly, there is one rash I see in my practice which rarely causes alarm among patients and parents. In fact, it is common for a parent to state, "Oh, that? His sister has that too. In fact, so do I!"

Keratosis Pilaris is a common, heritable disorder which results in small bumps consisting of accumulated skin cells and keratin at the sites of hair follicles. It is especially common in people who have a history of allergies.
Although it can be mildly itchy, the rash generally does not cause discomfort. Commonly described as "gooseflesh", keratosis pilaris can be a concern cosmetically, leading…

Why Drug Allergies Matter (Or Why Penicillin Allergy is Responsible for My Son's Lopsided Neck)

My 6 year son old just got over a rite of passage - strep throat and scarlet fever. Unfortunately, before we could even celebrate his recovery, I noticed a swelling on the left side of his neck. It was red and tender, and it was GROWING. The pediatrician in me worried, "Damn. Lymphadenitis (infected lymph node)". No sooner had we finished one course of antibiotics than we were onto another, and the side effects were bad enough to keep him out of school for another three days.

Why did my munchkin suffer so? My answer: Drug allergy.

Group A streptococcal bacteria (the cause of strep throat and scarlet fever) is remarkably sensitive to penicillin. Penicillin is the first choice treatment for strep throat, and has been proven to reduce the risk of developing rheumatic fever, a post-infectious complication which can result in chronic heart disease.

Problem is, my son is allergic to antibiotics in the penicillin family. At 11 months of age (8 days into his second ever course of am…

Generic Alternative to EpiPen and TwinJect? Not Exactly...

On Sept. 16, 2009, Adamis Pharmaceuticals Corporation announced that Walgreens will begin to offer its epinephrine pre-filled syringes (Epi PFS) as a generic alternative to epinephrine autoinjectors.

Certainly, it is wonderful to have a lower-cost alternative to EpiPen and TwinJect. (Tier 1 co-pay on Aetna and Cigna!) Many parents cough up $70 or more out of pocket for epinephrine autoinjectors that end up being thrown away. Now, don't get me wrong- I think it's much better to spend the money and throw it away than not spend it and be without life-saving medication if you should need it. But when you need one for home, one for school, one for grandma's house, etc... it adds up.

On top of that, I like to prescribe epinephrine for my immunotherapy patients, and they aren't thrilled about the co-pay either, especially when the prescription is only a precaution.

However, just because the medication inside the syringe is the same doesn't mean that device is equivalent …