The fear of COVID-19 has prompted many parents to keep their kids close, inside the house away from other people. But, sadly, many are also keeping their children away from the doctor. And that could do more harm than the coronavirus itself.
At Lurie Children’s Uptown Clinic it is a reflection of the new era.
Pediatrician Dr Nina Alfieri said the clinic practices social distancing and patients are brought from the lobby to an exam room right away.
“If a patient does need to come in for a well check or a sick visit like an ear infection, they can feel safe doing so,” she said. “And some of the things our clinic is doing is universal masking for everybody and the employees make sure we don’t come in when we’re feeling sick at all. … We are asking all of our families that the patient is only accompanied by one healthy adult.”
Even with all the precautions in place, some families are staying away.
“There are some patients throughout Chicagoland and throughout the country who are understandably afraid to come to care because of the COVID pandemic,” Alfieri said.
The quiet is a concern, especially when it comes to keeping up with vaccination schedules. Visits at Lurie outpatient clinics are down 65 percent.
“We get very concerned about missing vaccinations and those critical appointments because those are times when we can really take a close look at the child and their environment and their development,” Alfieri said.
Ron Jacoby recently took his 3-year-old son Jalen to the clinic for a wellness appointment.
“It was easy and what I expected,” Jacoby said. “Hand sanitizer, masks for us all, nobody in the waiting room.”
“Every age of childhood is a really dynamic time in terms of growth and development,” Alfieri said. “It’s also an opportunity for pediatricians to do developmental screenings to vaccinate so we can prevent against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles varicella and influenza.”
“Do what you think is right,” Jacoby said. “And if you think your child’s health is important, then do what you think is right. Come in. Don’t let fear drive your decisions.”
Alfieri said before you cancel an appointment, call your pediatrician and ask about precautions in place or the availability of a telemedicine visit, especially if you have any concerns about your child or teen’s mental wellbeing during the crisis.