One story has been dominating the news for weeks, and likely will for months to come: COVID-19, a serious disease caused by a novel coronavirus. Because people have not been infected with this virus in the past, nobody has immunity. And while the majority of people who get the virus do not become seriously ill, a small minority do become gravely ill, and some die.
The one glimmer of good news in all the developments regarding this virus is that children have not been hit nearly as hard by the virus as other age groups. That’s not to say that they don’t get sick at all or suffer serious effects: as of this writing, the nation is grieving the death of a five year old Michigan girl whose parents are first responders.
So parents are in an unusual situation: knowing that their kids will probably be okay during this coronavirus pandemic, but having the understandable and real fear that they may not. That fear is compounded when it is necessary to take children for medical treatment at doctor offices and hospitals.
There are many situations in which you would ordinarily pack your child up and take them to the pediatrician, urgent care or an emergency room. Unfortunately, COVID-19 means that heading to a medical care provider could be more dangerous than helpful. For example, the standard protocol for a person experiencing a serious food allergy reaction has been to administer epinephrine and then head immediately to the ER. In light of the coronavirus, some food allergy experts are now recommending in-home care under some circumstances.
In some situations, you may not have a choice about seeking emergency medical treatment for your child. In many other cases, though, you have at least some time to plan ahead. If your child has a chronic condition, such as food allergies, asthma, or diabetes, among others, consult with their doctor in advance about when it is appropriate to seek in-person care. Having a predetermined plan can help keep you and your child calm and safe in the event of a health issue.
Many medical practices are now offering telehealth visits rather than in-person visits. While obviously not suitable for all concerns, these virtual visits can avoid the need to expose your child (and yourself) to a medical waiting room, where they could pick up COVID-19 or another infection. At the very least, consulting first with a pediatrician online can help you decide whether seeking in-person care is appropriate.
If you must take your child to the hospital or urgent care because your doctor advises it, or because of a serious injury or other emergency need you cannot treat at home, there are some precautions you should take. Only one parent or adult should accompany the child, to minimize the number of people exposed to the health care setting. You and your child should wear masks. Masks may be more effective at keeping you from transmitting illness than keeping you from becoming infected, but most health experts do recommend their use.
Carry hand sanitizer if you have any, and use it liberally. Even better: wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently. Try to keep your child from touching things in the waiting room or examining room, as well as his or her face. Avoiding face-touching is difficult for adults, and more so for children, especially young ones, but it is critical.
To the extent possible, maintain social distancing. We often hear references to six feet as the appropriate distance, but in reality, further apart is better. Especially in a setting where others in the environment may include people with contagious illness, remember that coughing can expel droplets much further than six feet.
You are your child’s advocate, in the hospital and in general. You should not feel embarrassed about asking nurses, doctors, and other care providers if they have cleaned their hands before examining your child.
If you need to take your child for regular medical care at a hospital, rather than emergency care, speak with the medical staff in the department where your child receives treatment before taking your child for treatment. The hospital should have established a well-thought out protocol for keeping their vulnerable young patients safe. Understanding what to expect, and how to prepare your child, will make the process easier for both of you.
If you have questions about whether your medical care providers are taking adequate precautions to protect patients, we invite you to contact our law office.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
© 2020 Huegli Fraser PC