We know that parents are working hard to avoid any unnecessary visits to their pediatric office (which is great!), but there are still cases when children need medical care. If you have to take your child to your pediatric provider, or if you have to urgently go to the ER (hopefully not!), here are some of my best tips for reducing risk with children in medical facilities during pediatric appointments as we fight COVID-19.
How to Reduce Risk During Necessary Pediatric Appointments
Before your child’s pediatric appointments:
- Call your pediatric office BEFORE you go. Don’t just go in. Tell the office what is happening and see if they can answer your question/concern over the phone or if you need to come in for an appointment. Many pediatric issues can be handled over the phone!
- If you do need an appointment, ask if they offer telemedicine. A telemedicine video visit is just like FaceTime or Zoom, but over a HIPPA secure line. We can fix many things with telemedicine in pediatrics – but not everything. Many conditions still require a physical exam and/or testing. In light of COVID-19, many pediatric offices have started offering telemedicine visits.
- Ask what type of PPE (personal protective equipment) the office has. Because of the national shortage of face masks, gowns, and gloves, it’s fair to ask what your office has and is using. Ask if they will have a face mask for you and your child. The new CDC guidelines recommend wearing a mask outside of your home during essential outings. If they don’t have masks for patients, bring your own, if you can.
- Many pediatric offices are reserving the mornings for well visits and the afternoon for sick visits. This is a great way to try to separate sick children from healthy children.
- If it is available, ask for the first appointment of the day. This won’t always be possible, but when it is, getting into the office bright and early is a nice way to be in the building before other sick little ones come.
- Clarify which door you should enter through. Most offices are using a specific entry for well children vs sick children. This is also a good way to reduce risk.
During your child’s pediatric appointments:
- Avoid the waiting room as much as possible. Ask if they can call you when your appointment is ready, so you can wait in the car or outside the building. Some offices are offering exams in the car, so you don’t have to enter the building at all. This isn’t going to work for all situations, but it might work for some!.
- For infants, hold your baby or keep them in their car seat (with the cover on) as much as you possibly can.
- For young children, carrying them, holding their hand, or having them sit on your lap will help prevent them from touching things in the office.
- For older children, explain ahead of time that they need to try not to touch anything in the office. Talk about not touching their face.
- Do NOT let your child crawl on the floor.
- Do NOT let your child play with toys or books commonly found in the office.
- Do NOT take gloves, masks or other essential PPE that is needed for medical staff (so sad that I even need to say that!).
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as much as possible.
- Don’t touch your face!
When you get home, you and your child should:
- Leave your shoes outside.
- Take your clothes off and throw in the laundry.
- Take a shower to wash off any germs that could have gotten on your body or in your hair.
I hope your little ones don’t need medical attention during this time, but this information should help you just in case they do!
How is your pediatric office handling COVID-19? Have they made any of these changes?
Author: Dani Stringer, MSN, CPNP, PMHS – founder of KidNurse and MomNurse Academy