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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Kids & Medical Care During the Pandemic

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put many doctor visits on hold. So, fewer kids are getting the medical care they need.

But kids should see their doctors as needed, for well-child visits and other care. Here's what parents should know about visiting the doctor during this time.

Should Healthy Kids Still Go for Checkups?

Even during the pandemic, it's important for kids to have their growth, development, and well-being tracked by a doctor. This is especially true for newborns and children with complex health conditions. Finding health problems during checkups lets doctors give care to prevent them from getting worse. Not seeing a doctor until symptoms are more serious can affect a child's long-term health.

Find out how your health care provider is doing regular checkups. Some do virtual visits through telehealth or phone calls. Others offer in-person visits during special times when only healthy children are present.

Should Kids Still Get Vaccines?

Children still should get all their vaccines on schedule. Skipping vaccines could put them at risk for diseases that vaccines can prevent, such as measles and whooping cough. These illnesses have made a comeback, possibly because some kids are not getting their vaccinations. As communities and schools reopen, children are exposed to these germs when in public. Those who aren't protected by vaccines will be more likely to get infected. Kids with an infection may have a harder time getting better if they also get COVID-19.

Everyone 6 months of age and older in your family should get the flu shot when it is available. It's always important to protect your family from the flu. But during the pandemic, there are extra reasons. Doctor's offices, hospitals, and urgent care centers will likely be busy caring for many people with COVID-19 this flu season. Preventing flu in your family will help you avoid needing medical care when health care providers are under so much strain. Also, some health experts worry that people who get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time might have a more serious illness.

If you're concerned about your healthy child getting vaccinated in the doctor's office, ask if this can be done curbside. During the pandemic, some health care providers are giving vaccines to children while they stay in the car.

What Should I Do if My Child Is Sick?

Children will still get bellyaches, ear infections, anxiety, and other health problems. Doctors are open for business and ready to help make kids feel better. Call your doctor's office to ask what to do. They will tell you whether you need an in-person visit or if telehealth is an option. They also can tell you what to do if your child needs care right away and they're not available.

What if We Have an Emergency?

Call 911 right away if your child might have a health emergency. Signs include your child turning blue, not breathing, being very hard to wake or rouse, or being unconscious.

Otherwise, it's always a good idea to call your doctor's office for advice or instructions. They might offer help over the phone or guide you to a local urgent care center or a hospital's emergency department. If you worry about crowds or a long wait at the ER, know that they're not as busy now due to social distancing, stay-at-home guidelines, and the use of telehealth.

How Are Health Care Facilities Protecting Patients and Families?

If you visit a clinic, doctor's office, or hospital in person, they will make it safe for you and your child. To prevent the spread of the virus, they:

  • Do regular deep cleaning of the office and its furniture and equipment.
  • Limit the number of people in waiting areas. For example, they might have people wait in their car until a room is ready.
  • Screen people who enter the building by asking about symptoms or taking their temperature.
  • Require masks for all staff and any visitors over 2 years old.
  • Schedule well visits and sick visits at different times of the day. For example, they might do well visits in the morning and sick visits in the afternoon. This lets healthy kids come in the morning after a thorough office cleaning.
  • Physically separate patients. They might see sick patients in a different room or even a different building from healthy kids who come for a checkup.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: 12-08-2020

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