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Go Ask Mom

3 ways to prepare your child for a doctor's visit during COVID-19

Posted November 18, 2020 9:00 p.m. EST

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Editor's note: This article originally appeared on UNC Health's Health Talk blog.

Whether it’s for a yearly checkup, a flu shot or something more serious, a trip to the doctor can be scary for children. Going to the doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic may be even more frightening for your little one because the safety precautions may feel strange to them.

UNC Health pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Blyth suggests these three things you can do ahead of time to help make the experience positive for you and your child.

1. Call ahead to understand what changes to expect.

Doctors’ offices have put safety measures in place to keep you and your child safe when you need an in-person office visit. Before your appointment, you can call your provider’s office to ask what those are.

For example, most offices limit the number of people allowed in the office at once, which means only one parent or caregiver can accompany a child on a visit. If you have multiple children, you may not be able to bring them along or schedule their appointments together.

“You may want to have one or two kids at the same time and bring the other kids back for a different visit,” Dr. Blyth says. Talk to your doctor’s office to make a plan.

To help parents avoid making multiple trips for children’s flu shots, many clinics are providing flu shots differently this year, Dr. Blyth says.

“Getting the flu shot is more important than ever,” Dr. Blyth says. “Many offices are getting creative and doing drive-thru flu clinics, outdoor flu clinics and evening flu clinics. Parents should ask about all the options and see what works best for them.”

2. Set expectations.

Walking your child through what to expect at the appointment is key, Dr. Blyth says.

“I would prepare your child that the doctor’s office may look a little different than last time. You might not be waiting in a waiting room and instead may be asked to wait in your car. There may not be toys or books in the exam room to avoid additional high-touch surfaces,” Dr. Blyth says.

Let your child know that everyone in the office will be wearing a mask and potentially eye protection, so they may look a little different than the last visit.

“Parents could show their child pictures of medical workers wearing masks, shields, gowns and gloves to prepare them for people who may look a little different than last time,” Dr. Blyth says.

Also, be sure to prepare your child that he or she will need to wear a mask for the entire visit unless the doctor asks him or her to take the mask off for a moment to examine the nose, mouth or throat.

“Prepare them that they’ll have to wear masks the entire time, and that other people are going to be wearing masks, but that everybody behind the mask is still the same nice, caring person as before. It’s just a little bit harder to see,” Dr. Blyth says.

3. Bring along necessities.

Bring a couple of your child’s favorite books or toys for entertainment in the exam room. Try to bring books that can be wiped down easily and toys that are easy to wash.

Dr. Blyth says it is still OK to bring along your child’s cup and even a snack, especially if you may have a long wait.

If you are concerned you or your child may have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you or your child has symptoms of COVID-19, call your provider. Do not go to your doctor’s office or an urgent care clinic without first determining if further medical screening is necessary. If you or your child is having difficulty breathing, call 911 or seek immediate treatment.