Fort Worth, Texas,
10:26 AM

5 Reasons Your Child Looks Better At The Doctor's Office

"I swear he looked worse when I called."

"She hasn't been this active in days."

"She felt so hot when we left the house."

I get it. I've always tried to understand when I hear parents say these kind of things and this week I was personally reminded how this happens.

After getting a worried text from my wife, I left a Cook Children's Physician Network board meeting and hurried home to rush my daughter off to urgent care. After a few minutes there and a trip to the bathroom...we were as good as new. Back to asking a million questions. Back to telling me to look at the screen to see the same scenes in the same movies we've been watching for years. Back to getting on the table, climbing off the table.

Has this happened to you? Most likely, yes.

But, we got our results back, everything checked out great and we were on our way.

Why does this happen? Maybe no one knows.

Here are my 5 suggested possibilities:

1. Time has passed. Kids can get rapidly better and rapidly worse. That's one of the amazing (and absolutely terrifying) things about working in pediatrics. Kids often get better within hours. So, it's possible they were just due for some improvement after you called for the appointment.

2. Your child's medicine has had time to kick in. Kids can look terrible when they have fever and can pretty much bounce right back to normal when it goes down. If their fever is down, they are going to look much, much better.

3. You're in the presence of trusted professionals. (all modesty aside) When you're really scared, it's nice to have anyone around. Having that someone be a pediatrician who's trained for years to handle just this situation might make them look "better."

4. Kids often look better in the daytime. If you were worried about your child at night but bring the child in the next morning, they often look much better. Viral illnesses often look worse at night. Also, when you are tired, you might be more prone to worry and less able to put your fears in context.

5. I have always joked with my parents that we have a magic spray in the waiting room that decreases fever, fussiness and otherwise just makes kids look better before they get back to the room. What I learned from posting about my experience with my daughter is that I'm not the only pediatrician who does so...some of them call it magic pixie dust, some magic spray but apparently we all have something that does the same thing.

Ironically, there were many other pediatricians who responded by saying that their kids often did the same thing. I wasn't alone.

So, the next time your child looks tragically ill at home and perfectly fine in the office, you can rest comfortable knowing that your doctor has probably experienced the same thing.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


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