It’s fair to say that life isn’t quite what it used to be. With COVID-19 here and no sign of it leaving any time soon, we’ve had to drastically adjust our lives—particularly our children’s.
Days spent at a school desk with peers are now spent at the kitchen table with siblings and parents. Playdates at other kids’ houses are now limited to messages and FaceTime.
While you are working tirelessly to maintain somewhat of a normal homelife for your kids to help protect them from COVID-19, it may be tempting to skip a well-child visit. Some parents have even delayed first-time vaccines for their little ones for fear of COVID-19.
However, health experts like Ruben Espinoza, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health in Mesa, AZ, say it is incredibly concerning that there has been a significant drop off in well-child visits and immunizations.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, many children have missed receiving important immunizations, appropriate screenings and referrals and delays in medical guidance,” Dr. Espinoza said. “This may result in delays in diagnoses and possibly even worse, a secondary outbreak from vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles, meningitis and whooping cough.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study this past February that one-third of children between 19 and 35 months did not receive their vaccines on time. With the pandemic, delaying could even further the children’s vulnerability to preventable diseases.
“Although social distancing can help decrease the spread, other vaccine-preventable diseases can continue to spread,” Dr. Espinoza said. “We don’t want to return to the time when parents had to worry about their infant dying from meningitis. COVID-19 is giving us all a real-time education in what vulnerability feels like. Fortunately, now we have vaccines to protect our children and teens against 16 different diseases.”
How to ensure your child’s health and well-being during COVID-19
The American Association of Pediatrics strongly supports the continued care of children during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently shared recommendations in managing visits safely and effectively.
Dr. Espinoza shares some well-check guidance for parents to ease their fears during this uncertain time.
Don’t delay in-person well-child visits or immunizations.
“These appointments are very important to assess your child’s normal growth and development, by completing physical exams, lab exams and vaccines,” Dr. Espinoza said. “Although you may think your child’s risk of contracting measles is low, things like trips to the grocery store or visits with others outside of your home can increase the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. Don’t wait.”
Call their pediatrician or doctor’s office before coming in for an appointment.
“If the office hasn’t already relayed new office procedures, contact your child’s doctor and ask about new procedures for the office visit,” Dr. Espinoza said. “Doctors have implemented strategies to assure safety, for example scheduling well visits and sick visits at different times of the day and separating patients spatially, such as by placing patients with sick visits in other locations from patients with well visits.”
Come prepared for your visit.
“Complete any necessary forms or paperwork beforehand and follow instructions given to you by the office to protect yourself and your child,” Dr. Espinoza said. “For children older than 2 years old, this may include bringing masks to wear during your appointment.”
Check on telehealth capabilities.
“If possible, telehealth appointments for things like rashes, minor respiratory issues and behavioral health problems may be appropriate, but for other concerns, a physical exam is crucial,” Dr. Espinoza said. “But the main recommendation is not to delay care and call your child’s doctor to get the appropriate guidance in how to receive the care that your child needs.”
Heed standard social distancing and hygiene practices.
“According to the CDC, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus and ensure you are properly washing your hands and covering your mouth and nose while out in public,” Dr. Espinoza said. “By heeding these recommendations along with ensuring you and your child are getting proper medical care, you can reduce your risk of spreading COVID-19 or other diseases and ensure your overall health and well-being.”
COVID-19 will be in our lives for quite some time, so don’t wait for your little one’s well-child visit. Now is the time to understand what measures your child’s doctor has put into place to accommodate this new normal and how you can best protect your child.
Need a doctor? To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or health care provider at Banner Health, visit bannerhealth.com.