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When to E-mail Your Pediatrician

* Make sure your question is appropriate. E-mailing works best for billing, scheduling visits, and nonpressing questions, says Robert Gerstle, M.D., lead author of the AAP's guidelines. But if you need a quick answer  -- such as what to do about your child's 104°F fever  -- use the phone.

* Follow the "one question per e-mail" rule. And keep it simple: You should be able to state your message in a paragraph. If it's more complicated, you need a phone consultation or an office visit.

* Learn the office's ways. It may take two days to get a reply, and there may occasionally be a charge, usually the equivalent of a co-pay.

* Understand privacy issues. While doctors' offices use password-protected, encrypted systems, be aware that messages usually go to a central mailbox where they're first read by a staff member.

* Follow the links. Your doctor may refer you to a website that she knows can provide reliable answers.