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How Safe Is the Doctor’s Office During the Pandemic?

Topic: How Safe Is the Doctor’s Office During the Pandemic?

So…is it safe to go to the doctor during COVID-19? It’s such a valid question that we’ve been hearing a lot. After putting our lives on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are overdue for some routine medical appointments. But any contact with people outside your home increases your risk of developing or spreading COVID-19. Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t simple. There are many factors to consider when making a decision about in-person appointments, including your age, whether you’re immunocompromised, the type of doctor you need to see, and the number of COVID-19 cases in your area.

Before making a decision, it’s best to talk to your doctor about the reason for your visit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It may be easiest or safest to delay some appointments or conduct them through telehealth. In other cases, it might be best to go in for your appointment as safely as possible. Below, you’ll find insight from medical experts that can help you decide when to schedule those checkups, cleanings, and more.

1. First, determine your COVID-19 risk and comfort level.

Thinking about visiting your doctor’s office might scare you. (And that is completely understandable.) After all, you could be around people who have COVID-19, especially unknowingly. But it’s okay to feel reasonably comfortable seeking in-person care for essential visits, says Preeti Malani, M.D., the chief health officer at the University of Michigan who specializes in infectious diseases, internal medicine, and geriatric medicine. By now medical offices have COVID-19 safety procedures in place, and staffers are busy, so appointments tend to be fairly quick. There are also a few ways to limit your contact with people beyond staffers, which we’ll get to below.

Before making a decision about going in for an appointment, the CDC recommends asking yourself a few key questions: Are you at an increased risk of becoming severely ill if you get COVID-19? (The disease can be serious for anyone, but particularly for people who are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions like diabetes, or are over 65 years old.) How fast is COVID-19 spreading in your community? Could you have close contact with someone who is potentially sick but asymptomatic?

If you prefer not to be around people outside your home, then it’s important to communicate that to your doctor. Together you can work through a solution, whether that’s pivoting to a virtual visit or, if necessary, having you come in when there are as few people in the office as possible.

And it goes without saying, but consult with your doctor about what to do if you might have COVID-19. (Symptoms vary by person but commonly include fever, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. Notably, some people also lose their sense of taste and/or smell. And remember, some symptoms may be similar to the flu, but COVID-19 is much deadlier and more serious.)

Topic Discussed: How Safe Is the Doctor’s Office During the Pandemic?

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