Going to the doctor or pediatrician wasn’t so complicated just a few months ago. Neither was a trip to the dentist or the veterinarian.
Would your blood pressure be too high? Would your child cry at the shots? Would Fido bark at a cat in the waiting room? Even getting a cavity filled is more difficult now that concern over the coronavirus influences every decision leave the house. Anxiety is keeping adults and children alike out of medical offices, leading doctors to worry that people aren’t taking care of their non-coronavirus illnesses and prompting pediatricians to express concern over dropping numbers of vaccinated children.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a “notable decrease” in the number of vaccines ordered through a federal program that immunizes half of all kids in the country, the agency said Friday. “As social distancing requirements are relaxed, children who are not protected by vaccines will be more vulnerable to diseases such as measles,” the CDC’s Dr. Jeanne Santoli and colleagues stated last week.
People are staying away from the hospital, too, even when they shouldn’t — such as in the case of a heart attack, stroke or other emergency. The American Heart Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians and other major medical groups joined together in late April to urge people to still call 911 and go to the hospital.
Avoiding the doctor’s office and the hospital due to fears of coronavirus could be deadly. You can still get to some of your most common medical appointments with protections to keep everyone as safe as possible.
How to visit the (grownup) doctor
First call your doctor to discuss your condition. Some concerns can be addressed over the phone, but you won’t know if you don’t call. “For chronic medical issues or for issues that really are non-urgent, we also encourage patients to call their doctors first,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, an Atlanta psychiatrist and president of the American Medical Association. While some conditions may be diagnosed easily through a telehealth appointment to avoid a medical office, some chronic health conditions may require an in-person visit for an in-person exam, blood work or X-rays.
How to visit the pediatrician
Children got into scrapes that required visits to the pediatrician before the pandemic. Skateboard accidents and bike falls are still occurring, coronavirus or not. But kids who spending more time at home are also getting into more trouble at home, including accidental poisonings due to the powerful chemicals people are using to clean their homes to kill the virus.
“Kids are getting into things while parents are trying to work,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician at Georgia’s Children’s Medical Group. “The supervision may not be the same during the day, and everyone’s a little bit off their routine.” Poison control is still available by phone and online throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Many pediatricians are now offering telemedicine appointments, meaning a trip to the doctor’s may not be necessary.If you have a hospital emergency, head to the children’s hospital first if there’s one in your area. They are less likely to be crowded with Covid-19 patients. Lots of parents are delaying vaccines, and that’s not a good idea for children 2 years old and under, Dr. Shu said. Regular checkups and early vaccines protect against measles, polio and diphtheria and other life-threatening diseases. Some vaccines for older children can be delayed a bit but consult your doctor to be sure.