As people try to stay home during the COIVD-19 pandemic, children nationwide may not be getting their usual medical care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates between 70 and 80 percent of children aren’t seeing their pediatricians right now.
Dr. Katherine Hensley, a pediatrician at The Children's Clinic said when the quarantine began, her practice saw a drop of between 80 and 90 percent of its patients. She says she is now seeing about about 50 percent of her regular visits.
“We are definitely concerned about children particularly under the age three missing out on those regular well child assessments.“ she said.
Regular wellness visits are important for a number of reasons.
“Specifically the pediatricians aren’t able to provide immunizations for the other myriad of illnesses that the immunizations prevent.” Driscoll Health Systems Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Budin said.
Pediatricians provide certain vaccines on a routine schedule in order to build lifelong immunity for various diseases.
“If they’re not given on schedule, it can actually decrease their effectiveness and leave children more vulnerable to these diseases we’re vaccinating against.”
That could be dangerous for children but also for public health.
“If we have a large enough percentage of our children who aren't getting their vaccines on schedule and who therefore aren't immune to certain diseases such as Measels or Varisella, etc. We could start seeing small outbreaks of those diseases because we will have lost our herd immunity.”
Regular wellness visits are also extremely important for developmental reasons.
“This is the time when we pick up on growth issues. This is the time we pick up on developmental problems, speech delays, motor delays." Hensley said. "This is the time in their life we’re picking up heart murmurs, we’re picking up muscular issues, lung issues. A lot of those diseases -- if we intervene early -- we can make sure that children have a much better outcome. If those diagnosis are delayed until children start showing more dramatic symptoms that can really effect their health and long term well being.”
Another issue that Dr. Lee Budin said they are seeing at Driscoll Children's Hospital is people not going to emergency departments when it's appropriate or when they need to be seen.
"What has happened across the country is we've seen patients arriving much later than they normally would and that has led to some pretty unfortunate outcomes because the patients are much sicker when they get there. And that too is happening here. Thankfully, we have not had any untoward results of that."
Pediatricians want to reassure people that they are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their patients.
Most offices are separating healthy and sick children. All children who are healthy are seen in the morning hours and children with any symptoms of illness in the afternoon, which is the official AAP recommendation.
“We’re taking all the necessary precautions to make sure that If you bring a well baby into the office, you’re not gonna leave with a sick baby.” Hensley said.
Pediatricians recommend giving them a call if you have any questions or concerns.
“We do caution people -- please call us and let us know if your child is sick. Please pursue your normal routine care. We can help guide you if it’s appropriate to come in or not.” Budin said.