Parents, doctors at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas want to make sure you are not skipping your regular doctors’ visits, including well-checks, during the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders.


They also want to make sure you know that you can go to the emergency room if you need it.


Local pediatric offices and specialty clinics are doing telehealth virtual appointments or if they have to see patients in person, they are limiting the number of people in the office at the same time.


There’s a lot of concern that families are putting off their routine treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or vaccinations. Before you cancel an appointment, you should talk to your doctor’s office, first. They will let you know how they are handling care right now and whether you should reschedule.


If you have an illness or a new pain, you call your doctor.


Dr. Eric Higginbotham, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Dell Children's, says his concern is that by putting off seeing a doctor for something like abdominal pain, you might be having a appendicitis and not know it. Or if you have a sore throat, you might be missing an abscess that has become infected.


Higginbotham says right now the number of kids going through the emergency room has decreased. He credits that to people taking the stay-at-home order seriously and not being on the roads as much, which means less accident cases; not being in schools where they might get different types of viruses; and not being out and about as much, which means less broken bones.


The emergency room is open if families need it.


Higginbotham recommends that if parents are worrying about a child’s safety, they go ahead and come in. If they feel like they can reach their child’s pediatrician first, they can do that, but if they can’t reach their doctor or the need feels immediate, they can come to the emergency room.


Signs to worry about include a decrease in fluid intake, a decrease in urine output, a kid who is listless or having trouble breathing or bleeding that won’t stop.


“That’s why we built the emergency department,” he says.


What the emergency room is not for is to get tested for the coronavirus. They aren’t doing that in the ER. Dell Children’s is testing patients if the patient is sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.


They have seen some cases of COVID-19, but they have all done well and been discharged, he says.


When someone, whether they are staff or a patient or guardian, comes into the emergency room or any part of the hospital or Ascension Texas facilities, they are being asked screening questions such as if they have traveled, if they have symptoms including cough fever or shortness of breath. To those questions, they have now added diarrhea and loss of taste and smell. Everyone is also having their temperatures taken, and everyone is given a mask to wear.


Every staff caregiver also has a mask and if a patient has something where they might be coughing or sneezing, the staff will be wearing droplet protection gear including masks and face shields, they also might have gowns and goggles.


“For a kid, that can be very intimidating when you walk in with that going on,” Higginbotham says.


The child life staff is working on handouts to explain all of that to kids.