How Are Pediatricians' Offices Keeping Patients Safe During The Pandemic?
On a good day, walking into a pediatrician’s office might be a health risk. With all the coughing, sneezing, and sniffling going on, a pediatrician’s office often feels more like a cootie catch-all than a place where one gets well. And even though the last place you might want to be is in their office right about now, you might have a sick child who requires medical attention. So what are pediatrician’s offices doing to keep patients safe during the pandemic? More than you might think.
During regular cold and flu season, you can almost feel like you’re getting infected while you sit and read old magazines and shoot the stink eye at that one kid who isn’t covering their cough. But now with COVID-19, it might be even more precarious (and contagious) to come into contact with other patients in the waiting room. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have guidelines for healthcare providers to help separate sick patients from healthy ones. For example, the CDC recommends that practitioners offer well visits in the morning and have sick visits scheduled for the afternoon. They also suggest keeping patients separated, particularly those who aren’t feeling well from those who are there for a check-up.
If you have to take your kiddo to the doctor, here’s what you can expect to encounter.
1. They Are Offering Telehealth Options
Before your child is even seen by a doctor, they’ll most likely be screened virtually. “Prior to visits, screening is done to assess for possible Coronavirus exposure,” Dr. Alison Mitzner, M.D., a pediatrician, tells Romper. But that’s not all. Says Dr. Mitzner: “Many offices are also setting up email updates, webinars and other live meetings to update their patients during this stressful time.” And if it’s a non-urgent medical issue, it can probably be handled virtually by a telemedicine physician.
2. They Are Redirecting Potential COVID-19 Cases
If you think your child is potentially infected with Coronavirus and want them to see a doctor, think again. “Most pediatric offices have clear guidelines in place to keep you and your child healthy,” Dr. Charnetta Colton-Poole, M.D., a pediatrician, tells Romper. “Many are only taking care of sick children by phone and seeing only healthy children in the office for well child checks and vaccines.” So while you should definitely speak with your child’s physician, if it’s established that your child might be at risk for COVID-19, they’ll need to go to the hospital for additional testing.
3. They Are Still Offering In-Office Appointments
In order to avoid the potential spread of the virus, doctors’ offices everywhere are offering at-home medical visits. But if you still need to see a doctor, you’re in luck “Although many offices have limited hours and staff, practices are still continuing to see younger patients (4 years of age and under) for their well child check ups as well as urgent non-COVID sick visits,” says Dr. Mitzner. Ultimately, it’s up to you as a parent to determine with your doctor if the appointment is necessary... or if it can wait a while longer.
4. They Are Cleaning More
Of course, cleaning is a top priority when it comes to a pediatrician’s office. But now more than ever, sterilization is a top priority for patients as well as healthcare staff. “They are diligently cleaning their offices with extra attention to the doorknobs, exam tables, countertops and so on,” says Dr. Mitzner. Still, you shouldn’t assume that the office is sanitized from top to bottom, so be sure that you and your child still wear gloves when you’re there so that you don’t accidentally touch a doorknob and then your face, for example.
5. They Are Staggering Appointments
If you are bringing your child in for an appointment, you’re probably going to find yourself alone in the waiting room, though. In an attempt to keep crowds from gathering, appointments aren’t being scheduled back-to-back like they used to be. In fact, many practices (from prenatal to pediatric) are spacing out their appointments, What To Expect reported. This will allow doctors ample time to take care of patients without them piling up in their waiting rooms.
6. Patients Are Asked To Wait In Cars
During the pandemic, some people might prefer to skip the waiting room altogether. If a doctor’s office allows it, many patients are waiting in their cars before being seen, The Doctors reported. This can not only cut down on time in a waiting room, but it might reduce the risk for exposure to the virus as well.
It’s scary to think that a place of healing (like the pediatrician’s office) could potentially make you or your child sick if there’s an infected patient there. Obviously, all non-essential appointments should be postponed until after the pandemic passes. But if you’re concerned about your child’s health, you should speak with their doctor so that you can make the best possible (and informed) choice for their well-being.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Dr. Alison Mitzner, M.D., a pediatrician
Dr. Charnetta Colton-Poole, M.D., a pediatrician