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Talking with your doctor

A doctor taking a girl's heartrate.

Talking freely with your doctor can make you feel better and gives your doctor the information she or he needs to give you the best care. You can even discuss personal things about your health with your doctor. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to discuss something that is bothering you.

Five tips for talking with your doctor arrow top

1. Stay positive.

Go to your doctor’s visits with a good attitude. Remember, your doctor and other caregivers are on your side. Think teamwork! Think positive!
 

2. Keep track of how you are feeling.

Before your doctor visit, keep notes on how you are feeling. This will make it easier for you to answer questions about your symptoms and how medicines make you feel. It also makes it easier for you to bring up anything that you are worried about. Make sure to be honest about how you feel and how long you’ve felt that way. Also, let your doctor know if you are you scared, worried, or sad. Your care will be better if your doctor knows how you are feeling. Here's a helpful worksheet to print and fill out for your next doctor’s visit.

Your doctor can also tell you about counselors and support groups to help you talk about your feelings. Find support groups.

3. Bring your medical history, including a list of your current medicines.

If you're seeing a doctor for the first time, bring your medical history. Your medical history is a list of your illnesses, dates of operations, treatments (including medicines), names of doctors you've seen, what the doctors told you to do, and anything else you think your doctor should know. If you take medicines that you buy at the pharmacy without a prescription (an order from the doctor), make sure to also include them in your list. That includes things like vitamins, herbal medicines, and aspirin. Also, if you are allergic to any medicines, such as penicillin, be sure to mention that to your doctor.
 

4. Ask questions.

Do not be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you have. This will help you understand your own health better. Maybe you've been reading a lot about your health condition and that has caused you to think of some questions. To remember all the questions you have when you are not in the doctor’s office, write them down and bring the list with you to your appointment. Be sure to talk with your parents about the things you want to ask the doctor. This will make getting answers even easier!

At your appointment, your doctor may talk about a new treatment that he or she wants you to try. It may involve medicine, surgery, changes in daily habits such as what you eat, or a few of these together. You will get the most out of your treatments if you understand what's involved and why you need them. In case your doctor talks about a new treatment at your next visit, here are some questions you can print or write down to take with you:

  • How long will it take?
  • What will happen? (Is it a shot, pill, or operation?)
  • Will it hurt?
  • How many treatments do I have to have?
  • Will I be able to go to school?
  • Are there things I won’t be able to do, such as ride a bike?
  • Is this treatment to try to cure my health problem or help take away some of my symptoms?
  • Will these treatments make me tired or feel pain? How long will this last?
  • What happens if I miss a treatment?
  • What will we do if the treatments don't work?
  • Is this the best treatment out there for me?
  • What will happen to me if I don’t have this treatment?

If the treatment you get makes you feel bad, ask if there are others you can try. There may not be others. But you and your doctor can talk about it.

Remember — there's no such thing as a stupid question. If you don't understand the answer to a question, ask the doctor to explain it again until you do understand.

5. Write down what the doctor says.

This will help you remember important information later on. You might even bring a tape recorder and record what the doctor says. But if you bring a tape recorder, be sure to ask the doctor first if it's okay to use it.

Use this helpful Treatment Planner to keep track of anything your doctor, counselor, or therapist tells you.

Talking about personal things arrow top

It’s okay to be nervous about talking to your doctor about things that embarrass you. Who wants to talk to a strange adult about sex, feeling sad, or what you eat? But it’s easier than you think. Doctors are there to talk about everything that is going on with your body. They will not think any less of you no matter what you ask or what your problem is. In fact, they are very used to personal issues (and they likely have had to seek help for their own!). Telling them everything that is going on with you is very important for your health. By not telling them about a strange smell, rash, pain, or anything else going on with your body, you could be making a health problem worse.

Talking about personal issues with your doctor can be confidential, which means that your doctor has to keep everything you say secret. Doctors might feel they have to tell your parents what you say if they think you are in danger or aren't able to make choices on your own. Ask your doctor about the privacy policy before you begin.

 

Content last reviewed February 16, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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