Symptoms Talk, So Let’s Listen (Archived Pedcast)


I have a useful and important pedcast for you today. After you practice pediatrics for 33 years, you learn a lot of things and one of the things I have learned is that a child’s physical symptoms have a message. I believe that a child’s symptoms are his or her body’s way of telling the child something. I know that may sound strange but after you listen to today’s pedcast, hopefully you will understand what I mean and why this concept is so important to your child’s health today and for their long term well being.

If you have my job, you listen to a lot of descriptions of physical symptoms, whether those symptoms are pain, or shortness of breath, or sleep problems… or really anything else. I listen attentively to these descriptions and try and make physiological sense of them. Traditionally, doctors gather information from two sources, history (what the patient tells you) and the physical (what you see on examining the patient).

After the history and physical part of a visit, a conclusion is reached about a child’s symptoms. Such as, you have a viral illness, or you have a muscle strain, or you have headaches from muscle tension in your neck.  But rather than simply figuring out what body structure is hurting, I think it is very useful for the child and the family for that matter, to step back and ask themselves, “Why do I have this symptom and what is my body trying to tell me with this symptom?”  We really need to take it a step further to really help the child learn to listen to what their body is telling them.  I think this helps the child not only sort out this illness but they learn how to approach future symptoms. Many times, if the question is framed like this, the child can answer the question themselves… which is great.  By doing so, they are learning a great life skill that many adults don’t have. The child will grow up learning to listen to what their body is telling them and how these symptoms are really your body’s way of trying to protect the child’s health.  I am a firm believer that our bodies are always in the self- protection mode.  We just have to listen.


For instance;

Child with headaches… probably either a sleep problem leading to fatigue, stress reaction to life, or they are sick. When I frame the question this way with an older child, they usually know why they have headaches.   They will say things like, yeah, I ‘m not getting enough sleep because I am worried about this or that. Or, I think I am tired because I am sick.


Or a child who has a sore elbow… this is almost always from overuse, things like tennis elbow or little league elbow. When I ask what should they do to get better and when should they start playing again, they already know the answer… stop the activity until the pain is gone and then try and avoid overuse.  You see why this line of thinking is so powerful?  We are teaching the child to both analyze their own problem and find solutions.


Or how about a child with recurrent abdominal pain and cramps? Most of the time this symptom comes from either a poor diet, not pooping enough and not drinking enough water, maldigestion of some food, or a stress reaction. Once the child understands the why of the symptom they usually know what their body is telling them and how to fix it.   Eureka, we are creating a self sufficient adult! How great is that!



Finally, I think this type of reasoning is particularly powerful for parents and children since inevitably the question at the end of a most visits is something like– Can Johnny or Janie play in the tournament this weekend, or can they go camping next week? I fall back on what is your body telling you and what do you think your body wants you to do?  Amazingly, they usually already know the answer.


So, try this with your child’s physical symptoms in the near future and I think you will find this line of reasoning very useful.   At least I hope so. This is Doc Smo, thanking you for tuning into my blog. Take a minute to write a comment if you have some insight or experience with this issue. Also, please subscribe to my blog on my website or on iTunes to get notice of my latest content. My subscribers are some of the best informed parents out there. Go ahead and join the informed parent crowd. AND, I also want to remind you that my first book, Can Doesn’t Mean Should, is available in eBook form and hard copy in many bookstores, March 2015. Download or pickup a copy.  I am sure you will be glad you did. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping that the next time your child’s body talks, you and your child will listen without a balk.



Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book (Book review Pedcast)


Help support by buying this reviewed book using this affiliate link. You get Amazon’s best price and earns a small affiliate marketing fee.  Thanks for  your support.


Welcome to another edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics. I’m your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, a board certified pediatrician with 34 years of practice and a lot to say. Thanks for joining me today. I recently came across a gem of a book that I thought you might be interested in sharing with your children. Remember those Little Golden Books we read when we were early readers. Yeah, you remember, the ones with the gold binding, hard cardboard colorful covers, and cartoon illustrated stories inside. Recall also that the books often had moral lessons embedded within the stories. Well in 2013, Diane Muldrow, a long time editor of the Little Golden Books, put together snippets from many of the Golden Books that contained wisdom that she thought children and adults could benefit from today. Continue reading

Rethinking Antibiotic Use In Children (Archived Pedcast)


There is a fascinating new study in Pediatrics April 2015 that raises new questions about a medical tool that has been around for almost 100 year, antibiotics. First discovered in the 1930s, antibiotics have undoubtedly saved millions of lives and have been a great tool for medical science. Until recently, doctors and scientists thought of antibiotics as targeted weapons that are able to selectively destroy germs that our bodies were fighting, invasive germs, and leave the host, your child, with a balance of healthy bacteria, so called normal flora. Continue reading

Interesting Conversations w/ Parents July 2016 (Pedcast)


I’ve got to say, I have the some of the best-informed patients and parents on the planet. I am constantly learning about new and interesting things in the world of pediatrics, health, and nutrition from them.  Because of their insights, that I started my series, “Interesting Conversations with Parents”, to bring you a little bit of their wisdom. Here is a Doc Smo pearl for you; enjoying a good conversation is more about listening than about talking. In that vein, I am going to share a few of these recent conversations. Let’s get started, shall we? Continue reading

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