With hospitals, urgent care centers and doctors' offices across the country focused on diagnosing and treating COVID-19 cases, many parents are left wondering what medical appointments to reschedule...or skip altogether. Should you postpone your well-child visits? What about immunization appointments? And if you've just given birth during the coronavirus pandemic, should you come into your provider's office with your newborn?
Right now, experts say, any health care appointment that isn't urgent should be postponed or rescheduled until a later time. This includes dental checkups, elective procedures, some routine well-child visits (see below for exceptions) and any other routine care appointments.
In a statement to Motherly, Dr. Deborah Ann Mulligan, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains: "In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefit of attending a well visit and receiving necessary immunizations and screenings should be balanced with the risk of exposure to other children and adults with potential contagious diseases."
Mulligan continues: "Many pediatricians are choosing to only conduct well visits for newborns, and for infants and younger children who require immunizations and to reschedule well visits for those in middle childhood and adolescence to a later date."
Here's the breakdown from experts on which medical appointments to keep, and which should be rescheduled for now:
Newborn follow-up care: Keep your appointments
"Newborns should continue to go to their scheduled pediatrician appointments, especially to receive their vaccines," advises the AAP via Twitter. That said, parents (and everybody else) are advised to avoid unnecessary travel, especially in areas with a high rate of infection. Be in touch with your pediatrician about how their office is handling newborn follow-up appointments—they may have special office hours for parents with newborns, in order to keep exposure to an absolute minimum.
According to Mulligan, "immunizing the youngest children is a top priority in the context of well child care."
Routine well-child visits: Reschedule your appointments
Wondering whether you need to keep your appointments for routine well-child checkups with your pediatrician? Experts recommend calling your pediatrician to find out if they're even offering routine care visits right now. If your child is not scheduled for an immunization, is not being treated for a chronic condition and is currently healthy, your visit can most likely be rescheduled in order to minimize unnecessary travel in accordance with CDC guidelines.
According to Mulligan, "Pediatricians may choose to limit well visits to early morning while reserving the remainder of the day for sick visits. Where at all possible many pediatricians are choosing to increase their capacity to deliver telehealth for both routine check ups 'virtual well child house call' and within reason sick visits for common childhood conditions such as rashes or pink eye."
Immunization visits + follow-up care for chronic conditions: Keep your appointments, but call your pediatrician
While receiving scheduled immunizations is important, especially for babies, doctors and parents are also weighing the risk of exposure to the virus on the trip to the doctor's office. "For children older than 2 years, waiting is probably fine—in most cases," writes Claire McCarthy, MD, faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing. "For some children with special health conditions, or those who are behind on immunizations, waiting may not be a good idea."
Follow-up care for chronic conditions may also be the exception to the "postpone for now" rule, depending on the severity of the condition, the type of care provided and your child's age. The best advice is to be in touch with your pediatrician's office to find out what they're offering.
OB/GYN appointments: Reschedule, unless you're pregnant
Unless you're currently expecting, your annual trip to the gynecologist can be rescheduled for a later time. Pregnant women should be in touch with their care providers to come up with a plan for prenatal care and appointments.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends in their COVID-19 guidelines for prenatal and postpartum care visits that women contact their providers about alternatives to in-person visits: "Some women may have fewer or more spaced out in-person visits. You also may talk more with your health care team over the phone or through an online video call." Definitely call before going in to the office for your next scheduled appointment—your care team can let you know about your options.
If you have any questions about your child's health or whether or not you should seek in-person medical care always call your doctor. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
[This post was originally published 4/6/2020. It has been updated.]