The best way to avoid catching and spreading the new coronavirus is to stay home or to limit face-to-face contact with others. But taking your child to the pediatrician’s office for their scheduled checkup and vaccines now may be more important than ever.
Even during a COVID-19 pandemic, you should keep your child’s well visits, especially if they’re younger than 2 years old. Babies and infants need many regular screening tests and shots.
Good news is that pediatricians’ offices have adopted practices help protect you and your child from the coronavirus during your visit.
What You Can Expect
Before your child’s appointment, call your doctor’s office or check their website for their safety procedures. Here are some of the changes you can expect:
Masks and other personal protective equipment. If your child is old enough, you might explain that everyone in your doctor’s office, including the front desk staff and nurses, will be wearing masks. They may also have other gear such as face shields, gloves, and gowns.
Closed waiting rooms. Your pediatrician likely will ask you to stay in your car when you arrive and text or call to say you’re there. If your pediatrician’s office is in a large building, it may not be practical for you to wait in the car. If so, the waiting rooms should have seats at least 6 feet apart. You’ll need to leave right away after your child’s visit ends.
Cleaning between visits. Exam rooms will be sanitized after each checkup. If there might be many droplets in the air suctioning or other procedures, the room may sit unused for 2 hours between uses.
No toys/books/extra furniture. Your doctor may have removed shared objects from the exam rooms and common areas to help avoid spreading infections.
Different schedules or sites for sick visits. Your doctor may keep sick kids and those coming in for routine checkups from overlapping with each other. They may reserve certain appointment slots during the day for one group and use specific rooms or entrances. They may even dedicate a separate office site just for well visits and immunization shots.
Many doctors’ offices also will check their staff’s temperature for symptoms of illness each day.
What You Can Do
Safety steps you can take before your child’s appointment include:
Wear a mask. You and your child should both wear one unless your child is younger than 2. If you don’t have a mask, your pediatrician’s office should supply you with one.
Don’t bring anyone extra. As best you can, leave siblings or other family members at home when you take your child to the doctor.
Fill out pre-visit paperwork at home. Minimize your time at the doctor’s office by submitting your information online. Or you can bring a printout.
Take care of co-pays online or over the phone. This keeps your visit time shorter and lowers the chances of person-to-person contact.
Consider a Virtual Visit
Certain things can only be done in a doctor’s office. They include physical exams, blood or urine tests, vision or hearing screening, and vaccinations.
But in other cases, your pediatrician may be able to check on your child through telemedicine. You use a smartphone or a computer to connect with your doctor remotely by video, telephone, or online messages.
Many times, your pediatrician can listen, put you at ease, and give you guidance on what to do at home for your child. Your pediatrician may be able to see your child virtually for certain problems such as:
- Cold symptoms
- Cuts and scrapes
- Flu symptoms
- Insect bites
- Managing conditions like asthma, ADHD, and seizures
- Adjusting medication
- Behavioral and mental health check-ins
Your doctor may decide they need to see your child in person after a virtual visit, especially if they think your child might need tests to confirm a diagnosis.