UPDATE: This article has been updated with new information on September 12, 2020, 6:00 a.m.
By now, you probably know what COVID-19 symptoms are and what to do if you have them. But what if you’re having other medical problems or have an appointment coming up? When it comes to doctor’s appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic, are you still allowed to go? The answer is, it depends. In some parts of the country, regular doctor’s appointments are being held. In other parts, offices may be closed. The best way for you to know what to do is to call your doctor’s office yourself and ask..
Just because you may not be able to go to the doctor doesn’t necessarily mean you need to cancel your appointment. Here are the best ways to deal with doctor’s appointments and non COVID-19 illnesses during this pandemic.
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If You Have a Routine Appointment Scheduled
Physically going in for an annual check-up depends on how you feel about leaving home. It could increase your risk of getting COVID-19, but if you follow guidelines (like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing), this risk can be minimized. This can also apply to specialized doctors such as gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists, and more.
If you have an upcoming appointment, call ahead of time to ask how to proceed. Many doctors are making telemedicine available to their patients, allowing you to video chat or talk on the phone with your healthcare provider instead of going into the office.
Cancer patients, people who need routine blood work, or those who have other health conditions that require a physical presence at a doctor’s office, lab, or hospital should seek guidance from individual facilities that provide them care. If a medical professional has deemed it necessary for you to go to appointments, don’t be afraid to have conversations with the medical staff about what precautions they’re taking to lessen the spread of the virus. Ask what you can do before, during, and after your appointment to ensure you’re taking precautions.
What to Do If You’re Sick, But It Doesn’t Seem to be COVID-19
If you are sick with a cold or other non-emergency condition, consider treating your symptoms at home. If you really want to get a doctor’s opinion, or if your condition worsens, you can always call your doctor for recommendations. Your doctor may be able to prescribe necessary medications over the phone.
If you feel as though you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms, you should always call the doctor first and have them direct you as to whether or not you’re eligible for a test and where to go to recieve one.
What Should I Do If I Have a Medical Emergency?
The response for any kind of medical emergency is to go to the hospital or call 911. If you have an urgent medical issue, please seek the proper care immediately.
I’m Pregnant, Should I Still Go to My Appointments?
If you are pregnant and are worried about your OBGYN appointments right now, don’t be. You can still get the care you and your baby need during this pandemic. Call ahead of your appointment and ask your doctor if you need to come in or if a telemedicine approach would be appropriate. If you are not undergoing lab work or an ultrasound, and you are not having a problem, your doctor’s response will most likely be to have a virtual visit and elect only to see you when absolutely necessary.
Are There Restrictions on the Dentist?
In the world of COVID-19, we need to make sure everyone is socially distancing as much as possible. In some places, the dentist's office may be closed.
If you are suffering from severe tooth pain or another dental emergency, you should call your dentist’s office and they will instruct you on how to proceed. A helpful list from the ADA on what constitutes a dental emergency can be found here.
What About Eye Doctors, Chiropractors & Physical Therapists?
The advice for all types of doctor and wellness visits is consistent with the CDC’s recommendations. Call ahead for protocol and avoid all non-emergency interactions.
Can I Still Pick Up Prescriptions at the Pharmacy?
If you are on routine medications for blood pressure, cardiovascular health, or any other health issue, remember to keep at least a two-week supply in the event that you need to quarantine. While pharmacies are considered an essential business and will therefore remain open even during a shelter in place or state lockdown order, you should keep yourself up-to-date on refills to make sure you’re never without life-saving medication.
Avoid physical contact as much as possible when at the pharmacy and opt for the drive-thru window if your store has one. Additionally, once you return home, wash your hands thoroughly. Research has shown that COVID-19 may live on plastic for up to three days, so make sure to sanitize your prescription bottles before putting them away.