A worried mother phoned, asking me to see her two-year-old with a fever.
I’d seen the child the previous day. He had a fever but was not particularly sick, and my exam was normal. I diagnosed a virus, handed over a bottle of Tylenol, and told the mother he might feel under the weather for a few more days.
Patients often call after a day or two to tell me the illness hasn’t gone away. Sometimes they report a new symptom that gives me pause, but mostly nothing has changed. That was the case this time, so I reassured the mother. Another housecall wasn’t necessary.
People rarely argue with a doctor, so the mother did not disagree with my reassurance. But worry is contagious. No one is perfect, and there was a tiny chance that something terrible was brewing up.
I could have relieved my mind by sending them to a clinic. The doctor would find nothing and reassure the mother. If something terrible happened later, he was the last doctor she had seen, and I would be off the hook. But I didn’t do that, so I worried. When I called the following morning, they had checked out.