As cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spread, many families are taking steps to stay healthy such as staying home as much as possible. While social distancing is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19, delaying essential trips like medical appointments can come with its own set of risks.
"Well-child visits are the crux of pediatrics. They paint a picture of your child's overall well-being for the primary care team," says Stormee Williams, M.D., a pediatrician and Vice President and Medical Director of Network Development and Innovation at Children's Health℠. "Additionally, specialist and follow-up visits are critical to checking on treatment plans and ensuring proper care for your child."
It's understandable that families may feel hesitant to schedule checkups during COVID-19, but it's more important than ever to communicate with and seek guidance from your health care provider. See tips to feel prepared, confident and safe when you visit the doctor during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why are regular checkups and vaccinations important for children?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a regular schedule of well-child visits for children, from newborn through 21 years old. During these visits, a provider is able to examine your child's growth, nutritional status, emotional well-being, development and safety – as well as conduct a physical exam, address any concerns and give recommended immunizations.
Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have delayed routine medical care and vaccinations – and this can have long-term heath effects.
"Delayed or missed vaccinations put children and their families at risk for the very diseases they are meant to prevent," explains Dr. Williams. "There is a reason that the immunization schedule exists. With time and study, scientists and physicians have been able to increase immunity to these diseases following a certain vaccination schedule."
Other types of appointments such as specialist, follow-up and sick visits are important to ensure your child is receiving the proper treatment, tests or therapies they need. Thankfully, the number one priority of a health care provider is health – and doctors' offices and hospitals are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of patients, patient families and team members during this pandemic.
Tips for visiting the doctor during the coronavirus pandemic
To ensure the health of your child, please do not delay or skip medical care during COVID-19. Instead, focus on taking simple steps to prevent the spread of illness.
1. Ask about safety precautions.
Doctors' offices and hospitals are taking precautions to keep patients and patient families healthy. If you are unaware of the steps your provider is taking, call ahead of your appointment to ask. Safety precautions may include:
- Ensuring all team members wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Requiring patients and visitors to wear face masks when inside the health care facility
- Screening all staff, patients and visitors
- Limiting the number of guests allowed with each patient
- Rearranging waiting rooms to allow for social distancing
- Utilizing virtual visits to reduce the number of patients in the office
- Taking steps to sanitize the environment regularly
- Having separate "sick visit" hours from regular checkups
2. See your doctor virtually when available.
While health care providers are taking precautions to ensure in-person visits are safe, there may be times when your child's medical needs can be addressed virtually. Check to see if your provider is offering telemedicine services and the best way to seek care for your situation. You can often see a provider virtually for common health concerns, including:
- Common cold
- Ear, nose and throat infections
- Flu-like symptoms
- Mild burns
- Minor cuts
- Skin infections
In addition, some routine and follow-up appointments can be handled virtually as long as no tests or vaccines are necessary. See more information about seeing a doctor virtually.
3. Wear a mask and clean your hands.
Some of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are simple ones. Make sure you and your child (ages 2 years and older) wear a face mask to your appointment and that you clean your hands frequently. Many health care providers will have masks available for patients and visitors upon entering as well as provide hand sanitizer stations. However, it can be helpful to bring your own masks and hand sanitizer, so you have them whenever you need them. If you have a young child, see tips to help them adjust to wearing a mask.
4. Check in ahead of time.
When you visit your child's doctor, you will typically need to fill out forms before your appointment, such as confirming your personal information, completing any health questionnaires and possibly answering COVID-19 screening questions. Ask your health care provider if you can complete these steps before you arrive to limit your time in the waiting room. This can often be done on a patient portal such as MyChart.
5. Prepare for your visit.
Whether you are seeing your provider in the office or virtually, it can be helpful to make a list of questions or concerns ahead of your appointment so you can make the most use of your time. Make sure you've noted if you will need any prescription refills, documents for school or if you have any questions about keeping your child safe during COVID-19. If you do forget to ask a question, do not hesitate to reach back out to your provider and keep communication open. Many providers will answer questions through a patient portal such as MyChart.
6. Know policies before you go.
Before you head to your doctor's clinic or to the hospital, make sure you understand any COVID-19 safety policies. Offices may have visitor restrictions to limit the amount of people in the facility or requirements regarding face masks. Understanding these policies will help you feel informed about what to expect when you arrive at your child's appointment.
While this time is challenging for everyone, please be assured that your health care team is there to support you. "Keeping your family safe is our number one priority," says Dr. Williams. "We are vigilant in making sure to follow all recommendations to take care of our patients in the best possible way during the pandemic. Know that we will get through this together."
How Children’s Health is keeping you safe
At Children's Health, the safety of our patients, patient families and team members is our top priority. Learn more about what to expect at your next appointment.
Learn more about COVID-19
Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.
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