These last 6 months have been a blur with the COVID-19 pandemic, I can hardly believe it is September and school has started again. I remember the feeling of great uncertainty earlier this year when this virus was starting to spread and we quickly closed schools, cancelled appointments, sports games and put life on hold in the hopes that we could get the virus under control and learn more about how to prevent the spread to keep everyone safe and healthy. Now, we are many months into this pandemic and are having to face tough choices about what activities, schools, camps or playdates are safe to do.
Unfortunately, across the US visits to pediatrics offices for routine well care and immunizations have decreased significantly during the pandemic. As a mom of three, I understand the concern of parents for wanting to avoid exposure to COVID-19. But, as a pediatrician, I worry about the health concerns we are missing by not seeing kids for the routine check-ups. Thankfully, we have gained more knowledge about this virus and there are things we know we can do to make your visit to our office safe. Here are some reasons why I want to see your children for routine well visits:
Build a trusting relationship: Kids, like adults, need time to build trusting relationships. The number one reason I love my job is that I get to watch kids grow from babies to thriving adults and can be with families every step of the way. I get to know kids and their families best when they come in for their regular check-ups. The better I know a teenager, the more likely they will feel comfortable bringing up their concerns to me. I may be the first person they feel comfortable telling about their depression or want to talk through some tough choices they or their friends are making. If I know a family well, I am better able to put together pieces of the puzzle and read between the lines of their medical history to figure out the best plan of care for their medical problem.
Keeping your kids healthy: A big part of my job as a pediatrician is to give advice to help to keep your child safe and healthy. At routine well visits we are doing so much more than giving immunizations. Each year we are tracking growth and development and screening for health problems that if caught early can be better treated. The well visits are a perfect opportunity to talk about creating and keeping healthy habits with eating, sleeping and safety. I can’t tell you how many times a day I talk to kids about the importance of wearing their bike helmets or the dangers of vaping. Recently, the childhood immunizations rates have dropped significantly, and this worries me. I worry that rates will drop low enough that we will start to see outbreaks of measles and then will be faced to battle measles and other vaccine preventable diseases along with COVID-19.
We find things: I can think of many examples of things that I have identified during well check-ups that needed treatment. I worry about missing these things if we put routine medical care on hold during this pandemic. I think about the athlete with a heart condition that was found at a sports physical. It would be terrible to miss the kindergartner with the lazy eye at risk for permanent vision loss. I fear delaying a diagnosis of cancer.
I know you are worried about COVID-19. We are too. You can be confident we are staying up to date on all the latest information on this virus and are happy to talk through any questions or concerns you have.
We have done so many things in our offices to keep you and your family safe from this virus. All of our clinicians are ready and waiting for your families to come in and we look forward to seeing you soon!