We’re asking so much of ourselves as parents right now, and honestly, we’re all overwhelmed. Parents are delaying all sorts of things out of necessity and care. Thing is, there are some things that shouldn’t be delayed. I wanted to provide a little information and data to back-up points on places parents shouldn’t pull back during the pandemic. Some of this is a little anti-intuitive, which I’ll explain. A quick run-down to bring this to light.
5 Things NOT To Wait On During COVID-19
1. Getting Support for Potential Delays in Language/Communication Development
- Bring up any concerns, anxieties, or worries you have about your child’s communication, ability to connect, or development at any age with the pediatrician. Your opinion is of utmost importance. If you don’t feel heard when you do, book another visit or seek a second opinion. You can do this by telemedicine if need be! Delays in identifying language delays, communication challenges, or developmental issues only increase the challenge for children. Early identification and early intervention are essential and should not wait. The windows of development for learning to speak and write and communicate are critical early in life.
- If you ever worry about your child’s ability to communicate, confirm your child has normal hearing and normal vision. Go in to the pediatrician to do this now if you’re worried.
- If you have a family history of autism, let your pediatrician know this. If you’re concerned about autism in your child, as your pediatrician for an evaluation. Here’s more on the reasons why not to wait as The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the strong value of early intervention.
- If your child is referred for a birth to three visit, a developmental screen, or sent for a speech, occupational, or physical therapy visit — don’t wait. The earlier you get your child support, the earlier you will see wonderful improvements. There are services for therapy and intervention support that reach you and your child at home! Look at Dot Com Therapy for support.
2. Introducing New Foods, Including Allergens, To Baby
Food allergy protection starts earlier than you may think. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies start solids between 4 and 6 months of age. The LEAP study taught us that early introduction of peanut to infants especially at risk for developing a food allergy between 4-11 months of age, fed at least 3x a week, for five years was safe and reduced the development of peanut allergy by 86%. We also know that in the EAT study, 98% of babies who were fed foods like peanuts, sesame, eggs, fish, and dairy by five months of age and who kept those foods in their diets regularly did not develop a food allergy. This is why it’s so important for parents to begin incorporating diverse foods, including potential allergens, in their babies’ diet as early as 4 – 6 months and continue this routine through early childhood. DO NOT WAIT to do this. It’s exceedingly rare that food introduction is dangerous and there is mounting evidence that delaying introduction confers increased risk for developing allergies.
An anecdotal trend I’ve been discussing with colleagues is that parents worry about introducing new foods for fear of a potential allergic reaction and then a subsequent trip to the ER where they could face a COVID-19 exposure. Reality is, research shows the two most common signs of an allergic reaction for infants and toddlers are hives and vomiting, both of which do not require a trip to the ER. I’ll be writing more about this…stay tuned.
3. Following Recommended Vaccine Schedule
Don’t delay a well-child check or deviate from the recommended vaccine schedule. Pediatricians are noting all over the US that parents are behind in getting their babies and children in for vaccinations. The CDC is reporting vaccination rates are falling with some states reporting rates are only at 50% for some groups of babies and toddlers, The only thing that happens when a vaccine is delayed is increased risk for a child to catch an infection before vaccination protection begins. There isn’t a single study that delaying a vaccine incurs any benefit. Not one. In my opinion there is no question that getting your children vaccinations to prevent infections is a GREAT reason to leave the house. Why risk waiting? Mask-up and get into the pediatrician’s office! Really.
4. Screening for Mental Health & Anxiety
The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines in the past couple years to recommend pediatricians routinely check for signs of depression and anxiety in every single child. The focus is to carefully screen all patients ages 12 and over during annual checkups rises from necessity. The reality: teens are suffering unlike ever before (maybe it’s social media, maybe it’s devices, maybe it’s more focused attention on it….). We’ve seen a doubling in rates of severe depression and risks for suicide in children and adolescents over the last decade. No question that the pandemic has taxed so many of us when it comes to mental well-being. Now is NOT a time to wait for screening, care, and connection. Getting your child connected with the pediatrician’s office, especially if you’re concerned about their mental health is ESSENTIAL. Some studies show that up to 50% of parents didn’t know the degree to which their child was thinking about death and depression. Let pediatricians help you support your children during this TAXING time. This can be done over telemedicine. Do not wait.
5. Going to the ER for Chronic & Acute Issues
No question, pediatric ER doctors are reporting low volumes in the ER. Parents who are going in are going in late or with more severe disease. GO into the ER if you need it. The staff and doctors are all in PPE. Your risk of COVID19 in the ER is low. Let’s not have more injury, more disease sequels, and more consequences than need be. Furthermore, most primary care and specialty clinics are back up and running. Going for your every 3 months diabetes check, your annual skin exam for moles/cancer screening, your mammogram, your child’s annual rheumatology appointment. THIS MATTERS. Prevention is power and let’s not incur more illness during the pandemic than from the infection itself…..as best we can.
Mask up. Love up your people. Get in to the pediatrician when you need to. And otherwise, stay home and enjoy the immensity of your children. Let others help you if you worry (telemed, online therapy, pediatric visits, crisis lines). This time is BRUTAL but we can truly do this.