Your child’s doctor visits used to be pretty straightforward: Set up a schedule for appointments with your provider and show up. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we all have so many questions right now as to what is safe, especially when it comes to our kids.

Dr. Mona Patel, MD, Attending Physician in the Division of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, shares her advice on how parents can navigate their children’s doctor appointments during this time. 

How Do I Know It’s Safe?

The first thing Dr. Patel suggests: “Ask your doctor what measures the office has in place to protect you and your child during an in-person visit.”

Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles has taken significant steps to keep children and families safe, and Dr. Patel says they have not seen the virus spread on the CHLA campus. Safety measures include increased cleaning of surfaces, daily health screenings for all staff and visitors, requiring face masks, creating more space for visitors and testing each patient admitted to CHLA for COVID-19.  

Vaccine Appointments

With young children, particularly kids under two, Dr. Patel suggests keeping your in-person appointments for vaccinations. Vaccines are on a specific schedule for babies and little ones, and changing that schedule puts kids at risk of getting other diseases. 

“Vaccine-preventable illnesses pose a much higher risk to a child’s health than the novel coronavirus,” says Dr. Patel.

Care Plans for Children with Chronic Illnesses

Most of us are hesitant to take our kids anywhere right now, particularly parents of children with chronic health issues. If you have a child with an ongoing health issue, it’s essential to continue your care plan with your doctor. 

“It’s critical that parents continue to follow their child’s care plan–getting any imaging or scans, blood tests, treatments and exams so the doctor can monitor their child’s condition,” says Dr. Patel.

Well-Visits for Younger Kids

At a well-visit, your doctor may, check your child’s growth and development milestones, give scheduled vaccines and talk to you about your child’s nutrition, behavior issues, sleeping patterns and general health and well-being. Consistent well-child visits help your child’s doctor identify your family’s needs and get your child the help they need early on. 

“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,” says Dr. Patel. Many doctors are also offering virtual visits, allowing you to discuss your child’s health with their physician from the comfort of your couch. Dr. Patel suggests checking with your child’s doctor to see if this is an option for your family.

Well-Visits for Older Kids and Teens

With older kids, Dr. Patel’s primary concern for appointments is not just physical wellness, but also adolescent patients’ mental health. 
“We watch for upticks in anxiety and depression, which we see with this crisis,” says Dr. Patel. 
At a well-visit for an older child, your child’s doctor can check in on how they’re handling their current situation, and can provide them with the resources your family may need. Your doctor may also be offering virtual visits for these types of appointments.  

Dr. Patel’s main takeaway: “Do not put off health care for your child during this crisis.” Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles is prepared to keep families and children healthy and safe, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic

—Jamie Aderski  

Images provided by Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles