Dr. Karen Timberlake performs a well visit for one of her patients.
COVID-19 has taken over the headlines, preoccupied our minds and rescheduled our lives. This has created a perfect storm for pediatricians. Many parents have opted to skip well visits and check-ups because of concerns about exposure to the virus. That decision puts thousands of children at risk by not receiving proper vaccinations and other preventive health care, said Dr. Bethany Jackson and Dr. Karen Timberlake, with Floyd Pediatrics.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, visits to the pediatrician office have declined. “There has been a definite reluctance to come into the office for well visits, sick visits, tests and other procedures,” Dr. Timberlake said. “The concern for missed well visits essentially is delayed vaccinations and preventive measures.”
She said children may also be experiencing anxiety and depression because of COVID-19.
“This is an anxiety-filled time for everyone. Children can experience anxiety and depression similar to adults. If these conditions go undiagnosed, they are often left untreated as well,” said Dr. Timberlake.
It is also important that pediatric vaccinations be given on a schedule, said Dr. Jackson. “Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that parents keep these well-visit appointments. They protect children and our communities from communicable diseases,” she added.
Scheduled well visits allow doctors to check blood pressure, weight and heart health. Routine physicals give a clear indication of overall health and development. Without such screenings, it is likely that abnormalities or developmental delays would go undiagnosed.
Infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both the flu and COVID-19, according to Dr. Jackson.
“An average of 9.3 percent of children under the age of 17 will contact symptomatic influenza. In reality, we see more health complications for children from the flu than we do from COVID-19. Pneumonia is a common complication of the flu in children,” Dr. Jackson said.
The flu season varies every year. While December through February tend to be the months northwest Georgia sees the most cases, Dr. Timberlake and Dr. Jackson said it is not usual to see flu patients as early as October and November or as late as May.
“Our practice recommends scheduling your vaccine as soon as possible, say September or October. The reason being that it takes the body two weeks to produce antibodies,” Dr. Timberlake said. “For children 6 months of age, two shots are required a month apart. This means to be protected from the influenza virus in November, parents need to bring their children in as soon as the vaccine is available. For younger children, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all family members get the flu shot to protect against the different strains of influenza.”
Everyone wants to do their part to keep kids in school and businesses open and thriving. That means staying diligent in healthy practices. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Maintain proper social distancing.
“Information on COVID-19 changes daily,” Dr. Timberlake said. “It can be overwhelming. I encourage people to use the standard guidelines for staying healthy: get good nutrition, make sure you get plenty of sleep and try to exercise daily. Also, be sure to limit screen time and stay up-to-date on vaccines.”