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As Florida begins to re-open, residents are hard at work crafting their to-do list, with places to visit and things to do with their newfound freedom. For parents, one place should be at the very top of their list – the pediatrician.

Once cases of COVID-19 began to multiply and schools and businesses began to close, we were all faced with the same question, “What is essential?” Within a matter of what felt like days, we were forced to put our entire lives into two buckets – essential and non-essential. For some, essential activities were strictly limited to the grocery store. For others, it was essential they travel to work, or to check on a relative or pick up medication at the pharmacy.

As a dedicated pediatrician serving Florida families for almost 20 years, I implore parents to add one additional item to their list of essential activities – your child’s annual well visit. I like to refer to these appointments as preventative care visits as they are critical to the prevention of illness and the spread of transmissible diseases via immunizations. It’s also a time to see how your child is adapting to all of the changes that coronavirus has brought to their lives. For young children stressful events can result in tantrums, bed wetting and changes in sleep schedules, and for older children, it can bring out anxiety, stress or depression.

Over the last two months, parents have been put in a difficult situation as they balance community recommendations to stay at home and shelter in place with the need to bring their child to the doctor’s office. As a result, immunizations have dropped at a dangerous rate and children are falling behind in their preventative care.

Unfortunately, not all doctors’ offices have had the ability to secure proper personal protective equipment, and many have been left to rely on tele-video or sometimes only telephonic access for their patients. At Pediatric Associates, we continue to offer a robust telemedicine platform, but we have also adjusted our operational protocols to be able to treat both sick and well patients in our offices. These COVID-19 safety enhancements range from having separated sessions for sick and well visits, to taking temperatures of all visitors and staff as they enter the building. As well, our teams are using personal protective equipment (PPE) in all sessions, and we allow patients and caregivers to wait in their cars until their exam room is ready, limiting the time they have to spend in office.

It’s our job as pediatricians to reassure parents that we’re doing everything we can to keep their children safe. We cannot allow coronavirus to distract us and open the door to other highly transmittable diseases such as measles, whooping cough or meningitis. Although there isn’t a vaccine for the coronavirus yet, we do have vaccines for these other illnesses that can emerge if we do not follow our recommended vaccination schedule.  Preventing the illnesses we can, maintaining preventative care plans, and ensuring each child has the best health possible—nothing seems more essential than that.

To schedule your child’s well visit at one of our three Pediatric Associates of Tampa Bay locations, please call 855-KIDZ-DOC.

Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June 2020 Issue.

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