Can I Ever Go to the Doctor? Here Are the Conditions That Are Still Being Treated in Person

Wondering if you need to take your child to the pediatrician during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are the things pediatricians can't diagnose with telemedicine.

Doctor examines young African American patient
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Despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, kids will still be kids, and that means bumps, bruises, scrapes, ear infections, and a host of other childhood maladies. But with fear of infection running rampant, what's a parent supposed to do when their child needs to see the doctor?

Luckily, many pediatric offices are utilizing telemedicine to limit the need for in-office visits, but sometimes an old-fashioned, face-to-face appointment is just what the doctor ordered.

What Are Doctors Still Treating in Person?

While telemedicine has reduced the need to visit a clinic for many, there are still a number of conditions that require an office visit. "Conditions that aren’t serious enough to warrant going to the emergency room but might need evaluation or testing should still be seen in the office," explains Atlanta-based pediatrician, Jennifer Shu, M.D. Things like urinary tract infections, flu, and strep that require testing to be accurately diagnosed require an in-office appointment.

Similarly, ear infections, stomach bugs with dehydration, and anything that requires a physical exam should be an in-person visit.

How Do Office Visits Work Now?

The days of sitting in a waiting room full of snotty and sneezing children are gone—in the time of COVID-19, many pediatrician's offices are bypassing their waiting rooms entirely. It's not uncommon for nurses to triage patients who are waiting in their cars, taking temperatures and getting vital signs, then transferring them directly to an exam room, skipping right over the lobby altogether. And some clinics are performing full exams in tents in the parking lot to completely mitigate the risk of virus transmission in their offices.

If you need to take your child in for a sick visit, call the office first to familiarize yourself with their new protocols and be ready for things to be completely different from your last visit.

What About Well-Child Visits?

At Dr. Shu's Atlanta practice, they are prioritizing well-child visits for children who are due for vaccinations, mainly the 2 and under crowd, but also for 4-year-olds who are due for boosters. If your child has a well-check coming up, give your pediatrician's office a call to determine if the appointment is absolutely necessary, like to get their scheduled vaccines, or could be pushed until after the COVID-19 crisis.

While it may be tempting to delay vaccinations, Ari Brown, M.D., FAAP, Parents advisor and author of Expecting 411, Baby 411, and Toddler 411 says you really shouldn't. "We cannot forget about the 15 other infectious diseases we DO have vaccinations for and kids need those shots now—not when this COVID-19 nightmare is all over. Eventually, we will relax our shelter in place guidelines and all germs will spread again. If kids miss out on their shots, we will be in trouble. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that children remain on schedule for well checks and vaccinations—0-2-year-old well checks and 4 year well checks, 11-12 year old, 16 year old visits are essential and should not be delayed,"

"I know what you are thinking," says Dr. Brown. "The last place you want to go right now is a place where sick kids hang out. But please do not be afraid if your child needs medical care." While it may be tempting to skip the doctor's office entirely during the coronavirus pandemic, you can rest assured that your pediatrician and their staff are doing everything they can to keep their patients safe.

And remember, in case of an emergency, you should still call 911; the emergency room is still the place for broken bones and other serious injuries.

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