COVID-19 Q&A: Pediatrician urges well visits, physicals

Families need to keep up with immunizations to avoid outbreaks of other diseases

Courtney Collen sits in front of a computer monitor showing herself on the left and Dr. Stephanie Hanson on the right talking via Skype about kids and COVID-19

Part of the conversation over the novel coronavirus pandemic involves children. While COVID-19 has proven to be less common in kids, the virus affects everyone as kids are learning out of school and routines have been disrupted.

Stephanie Hanson, M.D., is the chief of service for Sanford Children’s in the Fargo, North Dakota, region as well as department chair for General Pediatrics and Pediatric Urgent Care. Through a Sanford Health Facebook Live event via Skype from Fargo, she addressed some of the most urgent topics when it comes to kids and COVID-19’s effects, including immunizations, well child visits and sports physicals.

Watch: Dr. Hanson on Sanford Health Facebook Live Q&A

“We don’t think kids in general are at a higher risk for COVID-19,” Dr. Hanson said. “When they are infected, their symptoms are mild, and they resolve more quickly.”

Just as for adults, she encourages parents to be extra cautious if children have any underlying chronic medical conditions involving their heart, lungs or immune symptoms. They could be at risk for developing more serious symptoms if they are infected with the coronavirus.

Keep up those child immunizations

Child vaccinations have dropped significantly between April 2019 and April 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is terrifying to me,” Dr. Hanson said. “When I saw those numbers, I was taken aback.”

She said this is largely due to families being afraid to visit the doctor, worried it’s unsafe and that they’d potentially put their child at risk by taking them into a clinic. Families also may think the doctors’ offices are overwhelmed, when that’s not the case.

“Those vaccines are so important,” Dr. Hanson emphasized. “The last thing we want right now is an outbreak of measles or whooping cough. It’s important to stick to immunizations on time.”

Well child visits, physicals

In addition to sticking with immunization routines, Dr. Hanson recommends continuing well child visits and sports physicals into the summer months. Both are currently taking place in clinics.

Sports physicals allow providers to make sure children have no underlying heart condition that could put them at risk while participating in physical activity, Dr. Hanson said. But they’re offered by appointment only. Sanford Health will not hold large event-style physicals for families to maintain safety and avoid large group gatherings.

Dr. Hanson addresses concerns over mental health, coping with anxiety and changes in behavior among other topics on the Facebook Live Q&A

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Posted In Children's, Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Flu, Immunizations

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