Doctors Have Message as Parents Delay Pediatrician, ER Visits Over Coronavirus Fears

Fears about catching the coronavirus are keeping kids from the pediatrician and area doctors say that’s more alarming than the virus itself.

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Chicago-area doctors say coronavirus fears are keeping parents from bringing children in for planned visits and even to emergency rooms for much-needed care.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids are missing well visits and immunizations amid the coronavirus pandemic. Area doctors have also noticed a delay in emergency room visits.

“It is safe to come into the emergency room and it’s important to come for care,” said Dr. Jennifer Hoffmann, who works in the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.

Hoffman says she’s seeing parents delay care because of the coronavirus.

“Parents seem so worried about acquiring COVID-19 in the hospital, that they're not coming in care for other important issues,” Hoffman said.

“We're seeing that across the board in pediatrics and adults. So, you know, I think people are just afraid to come to the hospital,” said Dr. Frank Belmonte, Chief Medical Officer at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Belmonte said parents need to know safety precautions are in place.

“We're trying to balance the safety of the patients and our physicians and staff with, you know, making sure that kids get their well child visits and their vaccinations,” he said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found 70 to 80 percent of kids are not seeing their pediatrician currently. Among the Academy’s concerns, immunization rates are down. Pediatricians say parents shouldn’t put off those measles or meningitis shots, among others.

“Many of those vaccine-preventable illnesses are actually more deadly to children than the coronavirus is itself,” said Hoffman.

“We've prioritized babies from birth to age two so we're trying to get that initial immunization series in,” said Belmonte, describing the protocol at Advocate Children’s Hospital and its various clinics and pediatric offices. “We're bringing well children in in the morning, and then we're bringing in sick in the afternoon, so we're not co-mingling populations,” Dr. Belmonte said.

Even with masks and other safety precautions in place, parents shouldn’t hesitate to call their pediatrician with questions.

“Use your pediatrician as air traffic control. They'll be the ones to tell you, 'Hey, this is something I can treat over the phone. This is something that needs to be seen,'” elmonte said.

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