I want to start off by stressing that if your child has a fever or is in pain, it is absolutely necessary to have him or her evaluated by their pediatrician. However, it is important to understand that the pediatrician’s office is one of the most dangerous places when it comes to exposure to viruses and bacteria. Most parents are there for the same reason that you are, to have their child evaluated for an illness. In addition, your child’s immune system is at its weakest when they are fighting off an infection. Children that are sick tend to stay sick! I like to use the analogy of war. If all your soldiers (in our scenario your child’s immune system) are fighting one battle, they are extremely vulnerable to being attacked by another enemy. So here are some great tips on how to prevent exposure to illness while waiting to be seen by your doctor.
Early morning appointments. If it works with your schedule, I highly recommend trying to get the first available appointment of the day. The staff usually disinfects the waiting room at the beginning of each day. An early morning appointment will significantly decrease your wait time and your exposure to germs.
The sick area. This is the area in the waiting room designated for children being evaluated for illness. If you are waiting for your annual check up or vaccinations, DO NOT GO NEAR THE SICK AREA! I can’t tell you how many parents come to the ER with complaints of fever, and tell me their child was recently at the doctor for an annual check up. If you are there to be seen for illness, please respect the other parents and children in the waiting room and wait in the area designated for illnesses.
The water fountain is not your friend. Please bring your child something to drink. Children are very attracted to the shiny machine that spits out water! You must have ammunition to fight against the temper tantrum that will occur when you tell them NO! I suggest bringing your own water bottle or juice box! Many viruses are spread by exposure to saliva and you are almost garenteed to be exposed to something while using the water fountain.
Stroller. If you child is of an appropriate age and your office permits it, try to keep him or her in their stroller! It will decrease the chance of being exposed to germs if your child is not climbing on the benches and crawling on the floor. Break out all the distraction devices! Engaging toys, iPads, and phone apps are helpful when used in moderation and at the appropriate times. This would be one of those times! Giving them snacks is also a great way to keep them in their stroller.
Call in the troops. This is one of my favorite and most effective tips! Bring along a family member or a friend. If it is okay with the office staff, have one person wait in the waiting room and the other person wait outside the office with your little one. When they call your child’s name, get them from outside and bring your child straight back to the examination room! This way you avoid the waiting room all together!
Bring your own weapons! Bring your own anti-bacterial wipes. When you get into the examination room, make sure to wipe everything down. Most importantly the examination bed! The small piece of paper that the nurse pulls down to protect your child against the rhinovirus that the child before him had is not enough! Don’t worry if people think you are crazy, it is better than having a sick child at home for the next seven to ten days!
See you next Wednesday!