Parents have been wondering whether they should keep their child’s health care appointments during the coronavirus crisis. Pediatrician Mona Patel, MD, has a simple answer: Yes.
“I’m having these conversations every day with my patients,” says Dr. Patel, Attending Physician in the Division of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “I’m encouraging families to come in. It’s so important that children continue to get the health care they need, including preventive care. ”
Is it OK to postpone my child’s vaccines until after the crisis?
No. Do not delay immunizations, particularly in babies and children under 2. There’s a very specific schedule for when babies and children should receive certain vaccines. That schedule is timed with the risk that a child could get a specific disease.
For example, there’s an illness called pertussis (whooping cough) that can be devastating for younger babies. So we start that vaccine at 2 months, and then we give it again at 4 months and 6 months. Giving immunizations early is really important to protect your child. Many vaccines take time to work, and children need multiple doses before they can be immune.
Children rarely become sick with the novel coronavirus. Vaccine-preventable illnesses pose a much higher risk to a child’s health than the novel coronavirus
Should I keep my well-child visits?
Yes. One of the things we do at well-child visits, besides give vaccines, is to watch a child’s growth and development—height, weight, developmental milestones, etc. We also talk to parents about nutrition, behavior issues, sleeping patterns and a child’s general health and well-being. This helps us look for things that could be going wrong and get your child the care that they need early.
Especially in these times, when many people are under financial stress, and children are away from their normal routines of school and friends, these visits are a good way to check in on how our families are doing and see if we can refer them to any needed resources.
You may be able to do a virtual visit, but keep in mind it’s important to track weight and height and have a physical exam, along with getting vaccinations. Check with your doctor on what’s best.
Does my teen still need a wellness visit?
For our adolescent patients, the biggest issue is often mental health. We really watch for upticks in anxiety and depression, which we are seeing with this crisis. I’m spending more time talking to my teen patients right now to ask them: How’s life? How are you handling not seeing your friends? Are you on social media? Are you exercising?
Many times I’ve been able to do these visits virtually. Ask your doctor if this is an option for you.
What if my child has a chronic condition?
Many parents whose children have chronic health issues are understandably scared about COVID-19. But these children should absolutely be coming in for their appointments. It’s critical that parents continue to follow their child’s care plan—getting any needed imaging or scans, blood tests, treatments and exams so the doctor can monitor their child’s condition.
This care plan is carefully designed to keep your child as healthy as possible. Delaying or skipping care could cause your child’s condition to worsen. That is the last thing we want to happen.
How do I know if it’s safe to take my child to the doctor?
Ask your doctor what measures the office has in place to protect you and your child during an in-person visit. Here at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, I can tell you we have taken extensive steps to keep children and families safe. These steps are working. We are not seeing the virus spread on our campus.
Our efforts include:
Increased cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces
Daily health screenings for all staff and visitors
Requiring everyone to wear a face mask. If you don’t have a mask, we will give you one when you come for your visit. Children under 2 should not wear masks because the mask can be suffocating for them.
Creating more space between chairs and tables in our waiting rooms and cafeteria
Limiting the number of visitors
On-site testing for inpatients. Every patient who is admitted to CHLA or coming to the hospital for a surgery or procedure is tested for COVID-19.
Are CHLA’s specialty care centers open?
Our specialty care centers in Santa Monica, South Bay, Arcadia and Encino are open. All the same safety measures in place at our Sunset campus—social distancing, masks, daily health checks, cleaning and more—are also in place at our specialty care centers.
What is the most important thing you want families to know?
The biggest thing I want families to know is they should not put off health care for their child during this crisis. At our institution, we are confident we can keep children and families safe.
For more information on how Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is protecting patients, families and team members during the COVID-19 pandemic, go to CHLA.org/coronavirus.