While understandably concerned about exposure to 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Heather Masotto didn’t hesitate to bring 1-year-old Brinley to the pediatrician for her well-child visit. Heather knows that keeping her child’s vaccinations up-to-date can protect her against serious and potentially life-threatening infections.
“I would never want to put my daughter in danger of not being properly vaccinated,” Heather says. “Plus, we felt totally comfortable in the office, and the staff had assured me that all the proper precautions were in place.”
A day before the visit with Brinley’s pediatrician, Sara Siddiqui, MD, at NYU Langone Huntington Medical Group, a staff member called Heather to explain the safety protocols that are in place at all NYU Langone pediatric practices. These include asking if anyone in the family has been sick, and if so, postponing the visit. Only one parent or caregiver can accompany the child to the visit, and adults must wear masks, as well as children ages 2 and older who can tolerate it. All appointments start on time, so parents and children are brought immediately into to an exam room to minimize time in the waiting area.
Other precautions include taking everyone’s temperature at the door before they can enter and designating areas to keep healthy children away from those who are feeling unwell. All rooms are thoroughly sanitized between patients. In-office staff members—who are masked, gloved, and screened for illness before coming to work—are kept to a minimum and practice social distancing.
“When we got there, there was no one in the waiting room,” Heather says. “The doctors and medical assistants were all wearing gloves and masks.”
Dr. Siddiqui started the appointment right on time. And while it was a quick visit, Heather never felt rushed. “She answered every question I had about Brinley, and she got her vaccinations,” Heather says.
The Importance of Well-Child Visits and Immunization
Our pediatricians, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, are encouraging parents to keep up with well-child visits for their infants and toddlers. Keeping children on track for their immunizations is important for their overall health and reduces the risk of vaccine-preventable illness.
During the 2018–19 measles outbreak, New York state had one of the highest number of measles cases in the nation. “We do not want to see an insurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases due to decreased vaccination rates,” Dr. Siddiqui says.
By age 15 months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends inoculation against 13 illnesses, including chicken pox, diphtheria, hepatitis B and A, measles, mumps, polio, H influenza type B, pneumococcus, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. This evidence-based schedule is designed to vaccinate children at the earliest possible age at which the immune system will respond well and create protective antibodies.
“Pediatric medicine is about prevention, so if we can get them into the office in a safe manner, and get them vaccinated on schedule, we want to encourage that,” says Niloufar Gidfar, MD, pediatrician at NYU Langone at Trinity.
For babies and toddlers, in-person visits provide an important aspect of care. The first two years are a time of immense growth. Monitoring that development is a key part of the well-child visit. “At 2 and 4 months, I’m looking for tone and strength in the shoulders, which can be difficult to assess without a physical exam,” Dr. Siddiqui says. “I check reflexes. Does the baby clasp my hand? Things like that are really important.”
Video Visits for Treatment
To reduce the risk related to COVID-19, NYU Langone pediatricians are using video doctor visits to help treat children who are sick. Rashes, fevers, sinus infections, and colds are the most common ailments pediatricians see during video visits. Parents request a video visit with their child’s pediatrician either through NYU Langone Health MyChart or by calling the doctor’s office. There are many conditions that can be diagnosed during the video visit. Your pediatrician can provide advice and guidance on caring for your child, and have a prescription sent to your pharmacy if necessary.
“We can look at the eyes for conjunctivitis, and older kids are really great at showing us their mouth and throat on the screen. I also ask parents to do things like rub up and down the neck to check for swollen lymph nodes, and while they do that I can see how the child reacts,” says Alexis S. Papageorge, MD, pediatrician at NYU Langone Slope Pediatrics.
In situations where a physical exam or diagnostic testing, such as a throat swab for group A strep, is necessary, your pediatrician will ask you to schedule an in-office visit. The exam takes place in a room designated for children who are not feeling well, and it is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between patients.
“While we are in the epicenter of what is going on with COVID-19, the important thing to remember is that we have been here the whole time,” Dr. Siddiqui says. “We’ve been here for well-child visits, and we are here for you if your child is sick.”