When you walk into your child’s pediatrician’s office, it’s like you can almost feel like you’re risking your health. After all, what with all the coughing, sneezing, and sniffling, it can feel more like a cootie catch-all than a sanitary situation. But if it’s necessary to take your child to the doctor because they’re feeling ill, you have a right to know what pediatricians’ offices are doing to keep patients safe during the pandemic. Fortunately, it’s a lot more than you might think.
Whether it’s those old magazines that have that certain *texture* to them, or someone who coughs into the air (and not into their elbow), you can practically feel the infections invading your body while you sit in a doctor’s waiting room. But now that there’s still a risk for COVID-19 as well as its variants Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda, it might not be as practical to sit with other patients in a waiting room.
If you have to take your child to the doctor, thought, here’s an idea of what could happen — and how you can stay safe.
Telehealth Options Are Available
The good news is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have suggested 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. 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,” says Dr. Alison Mitzner, MD, a pediatrician and author of Calm and Confident Parenting. But that’s not all that will be done prior to the actual appointment. “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.
Potential Covid-19 Cases Go Straight To The Hospital
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,” says Dr. Charnetta Colton-Poole, MD, a pediatrician. “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.
In-Office Appointments Still Exist
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 an in-office appointment is necessary or if it can wait a while longer.
There’s A Lot More Scrubbing And Sanitizing
Of course, cleaning is always a top priority in a pediatrician’s office. But now, cleaning has taken on an entirely new meaning as a means to keep both patients and healthcare staff safe. “Doctors’ offices 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 nose or eyes.
Appointments Are Spaced Out
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.
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. 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. Here’s how it works: you show up to your appointment at the allotted time, and call to let the office know you’re there. Once there’s a staffer to assist you, you’ll be allowed to enter the doctor’s office — and brought straight into an examination room. Because waiting rooms are so passe.
It’s scary to think that any medical office (least of all a pediatric one) could potentially make you sick. But if you’re concerned about your child’s health, you should speak with your child’s doctor so that you can make the best possible (and informed) choice for their well-being, no matter where medical help is offered.