Are your children missing important routine care during the pandemic?

January 26, 2021 in Family Caregiving  •  By Miles Varn, MD

For almost a year, attention around the world has been rightly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, some primary care physicians limited in-person visits or temporarily closed their offices to lower the risk of patients contracting the virus, which meant that the delivery of many routine types of care was postponed.

As healthcare providers found new ways to provide care for their patients as safely as possible, offering virtual visits, staggering appointments to allow time for sanitizing rooms and equipment, and putting social distancing measures in place in waiting rooms, some patients returned to their doctor’s offices for routine care. But many, still concerned about contracting COVID-19, did not, which meant important routine care and management of chronic conditions was missed by both adults and children.

What types of care are children missing?

To help protect your child’s health and wellbeing, talk with your pediatrician about what options she or he is offering to provide care and what essential appointments you should not miss, including:

  • Immunizations: Many children have missed vaccines for measles, polio, whopping cough, flu, and other serious vaccine-preventable diseases. Data collected by Blue Cross Blue Shield showed that up to nine million children in the U.S. were projected to miss routine vaccinations by the end of 2020, resulting in 26% fewer vaccines received than in 2019. Some pediatricians are offering drive-up and mobile clinic vaccinations, where your child can receive his or her vaccines without going into the office if you’re concerned about spending time in the waiting room or office.
  • Developmental assessments: If you have concerns about your child’s development or if your child was in the process of being evaluated for a developmental issue and that process was interrupted by the pandemic, talk with your pediatrician to find out whether at least some part of the evaluation can be conducted virtually. Because early intervention may improve your child’s outcome, it’s wise not to delay seeking evaluation and the development of a treatment plan for an extended period of time.
  • Management of chronic conditions: For children living with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, congenital heart disease, ADHD, sickle cell disease, and autism spectrum disorders, regular care is an important part of managing their condition. Talk with your pediatrician about how you can ensure your child has access to any needed medication refills and whether you can choose virtual visits for some of their care. Of course, if your child needs blood or imaging tests, he or she will need to be seen in person.
  • Mental health care: If you’re child has been diagnosed with a mental health issue or if you notice changes in your child’s mood and behavior that may be signs of a new issue like depression, anxiety, or substance use, which are on the rise because of the stresses caused by the pandemic, make sure your child has access to a mental healthcare provider and any medications prescribed for the condition. Mental healthcare is one specialty that lends itself well to virtual visits, either by video chat or phone, so talk with your child’s provider to find out what options are available.

In addition to making sure your children aren’t missing important care during the pandemic, parents should also make their own care a priority. Talk to your doctors about what care you can safely postpone and what care you should not delay.