When medical visits are delayed or canceled because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, kids might not get the medical care they need.

But kids still should see their doctors for well-child visits and other care. Here's what parents should know about visiting the doctor during this time.

Should Healthy Kids Still Go for Checkups?

It's always important for kids to have their growth, development, and well-being tracked by a doctor. This is especially true for newborns and children with complex health conditions. Finding health problems during checkups lets doctors give care to prevent them from getting worse. Not seeing a doctor until symptoms are more serious can affect a child's long-term health.

Find out how your health care provider is doing regular checkups. Some do virtual visits through telehealth or phone calls. Others offer in-person visits during special times when only healthy children are present.

Should Kids Still Get Vaccines?

Children should get all their vaccines on schedule. Skipping vaccines could put them at risk for diseases that vaccines can prevent, such as measles and whooping cough. These illnesses have made a comeback, possibly because some kids are not getting their vaccinations. As communities and schools reopen, children are exposed to these germs when in public. Those who aren't protected by vaccines are more likely to get infected. Kids with an infection may have a harder time getting better if they also get COVID-19.

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu shot each year. It's always important to protect your family from the flu. And COVID-19 vaccines are available for people 16 and older. Everyone should get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they're eligible. Studies are under way to see if the vaccines are safe and effective in children younger than 16.

What Should I Do if My Child Is Sick?

Children will still get bellyaches, ear infections, anxiety, and other health problems. Doctors are ready to help make kids feel better. Call your doctor's office to ask what to do. They will tell you whether you need an in-person visit or if telehealth is an option. They also can tell you what to do if your child needs care right away and they're not available.

What if We Have an Emergency?

Call 911 right away if your child might have a health emergency. Signs include your child turning blue, not breathing, being very hard to wake or rouse, or being unconscious.

Otherwise, it's always a good idea to call your doctor's office for advice or instructions. They might offer help over the phone or guide you to a local urgent care center or a hospital's emergency department. If you worry about crowds or a long wait, many ERs are less crowded now due to social distancing and the use of telehealth.

How Are Health Care Facilities Protecting Patients and Families?

Clinics, doctor's offices, and hospitals have learned a lot about how to keep patients safe since the pandemic began. Health care providers wear masks and other protective gear, and are vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves and the patients they care for.

To prevent the spread of the virus and ensure a safe environment for you and your child, they:

  • Do regular deep cleaning of the office and its furniture and equipment.
  • Limit the number of people in waiting areas. For example, they might have people wait in their car until a room is ready.
  • Screen people who enter the building by asking about symptoms or taking their temperature.
  • Require masks for all staff and any visitors over 2 years old.
  • Schedule well visits and sick visits at different times of the day. For example, they might do well visits in the morning and sick visits in the afternoon. This lets healthy kids come in the morning after a thorough office cleaning.
  • Physically separate patients. They might see sick patients in a different room or even a different building from healthy kids who come for a checkup.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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