Your child has your mother's eyes and your spouse's smile, but what family health conditions have been passed on? It's important to build an accurate family medical history, said Tricia Schmit, M.D., pediatrician, Alegent Creighton Clinic at Lakeside.
"When doctors ask about these things, they are not just trying to fish for good stories; it helps to know what to look out for," said Dr. Schmit.
Your child's physician can work with you to build a medical history of key health conditions that run in your clan. In fact, during pregnancy or family planning, tests may be given to identify potential genetic issues such as Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.
How to begin?
- Stick with three generations — the child, parents and grandparents. It's not so important to know about great-grandparents, cousins, etc.
- Can't recall the disease? Just knowing symptoms (i.e., Dad bled or bruised easily) can help.
- Be honest. It's important to share sensitive information with your pediatrician (i.e., addictions or depression in the family). Meet privately with the physician if you don't want to discuss in front of your child.
- Get started now. With a family health history, the pediatrician can determine what tests may need to be done, understand family dynamics, and prompt discussions about potential issues that may arise during your child's life.
Family Health History Links
A recent survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history.
Tips: Before You Start
Create a Family History online tool (U.S. Surgeon General):
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