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Kids still need to see their pediatrician during the pandemic—here’s why

By Devon Ebbing, MD

If you are wondering whether it’s safe or necessary to bring your baby, child, or teen in for a wellness check, let me reassure you that doctors believe that this type of preventive care is vitally important right now. Vancouver Clinic and other health care organizations have procedures in place to help see patients safely. We believe that it’s essential that kids get the care they need for several reasons:

Avoid vaccine-preventable illnesses

If there’s ever a time to make sure kids are up-to-date on their vaccines, it’s now. Vaccinated kids are less likely to get sick from a preventable illness and land in the hospital. While hospitals are safe places to go in an emergency, it’s better to stay healthy to begin with.

What’s more, a vaccinated population eases the burden on our already strained medical system. Taking care of patients with the measles or the flu requires personal protective equipment and testing supplies, which are already scarce.

Another concern: Because the novel coronavirus is so new, doctors don’t know what will happen when people are diagnosed with COVID-19 and another illness at the same time. As we head into cold and flu season, it’s important that kids are as protected as possible.

Receive mental health support

Checkups are an opportunity for pediatricians to do mental health screens for anxiety and depression. We can provide advice and recommendations on how to manage these conditions, help people access counseling, and provide medication, if appropriate.

One of the biggest things pediatricians have noticed this summer is that teenagers have already “phase shifted.” They’re going to bed later and getting up at 10 a.m. One of the risks with teens is that these late nights can keep getting later. As a result, they start missing out on normal meals and time with their families. They eat more junk food and get less exercise. This sets kids up for an increased depression risk.

Wellness visits are a valuable time to talk about prioritizing nutrition, sleep, family activities, and exercise. Hearing this advice from a physician can often be more persuasive than when it comes from mom or dad.

Get care for health conditions

Another reason to go to the doctor is to identify health issues before they become a problem and to get help with managing existing conditions. When kids come into the office we are able to check their height, weight, blood pressure, and vision. We can help families better manage a diabetes diagnosis or adjust medications used to treat ADHD. We can get one-on-one time with teenagers, who may not open up to their parents about health concerns.

With local school districts recommending a remote start in the fall, I think it’s particularly important that parents whose kids normally receive services at the school stay in touch with their pediatrician. Kids with learning disabilities or with autism will be facing unique challenges this year, and it’s important families don’t feel like they are navigating these waters alone.

My hope is that all kids can be in a healthy place physically and emotionally, so they can go into the school year with a positive attitude and flexible mindset.

Dr. Devon Ebbing is a pediatrician at Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys working with patients and their families to develop the right care plans for their unique needs.