What Measures Can I Take to Safely Attend a Doctor’s Appointment during COVID-19?

It is ironic that one of the activities that you may be reluctant to perform during the midst of this public health crisis is visit a doctor. A recent poll found that 68 percent of respondents said they or a member of their household had postponed a trip to the doctor’s office due to COVID-19. It is understandable why many people are averse to seeing a doctor when there could be many patients with a potentially lethal and communicable illness in the waiting room with you, but health experts agree that you shouldn’t put off important medical appointments—even for COVID-19.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you are apprehensive about visiting your doctor’s office, you should make inquiries into the current status of the health care crisis.  Almost a third of all Americans are now fully vaccinated, so there is less risk in general. Your doctor may tell you that there are very few patients making appointments these days, so the risk of meeting someone with COVID-19 is minimal.

You should also ask about patient management and sanitization procedures.  Many clinics limit the number of people in a space and require that everyone wear a mask at all times. Almost all hospitals and physicians’ offices have protocols in place now that limit the transmission of COVID-19, but if you need peace of mind, you should ask your doctor what procedures are in place in their office.

If you decide to go to the doctor’s office, listen carefully to your doctor’s instructions. They will almost surely include the following:

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and others
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching surfaces
  • Don’t touch your face

Virtual Visits

One of the most popular ways to get medical attention these days is over the telephone or internet. A virtual visit may be sufficient for a routine checkup, medication management, or general health inquiry. If your doctor feels that a face-to-face meeting is necessary after learning about the health issue, then that can be arranged at the end of the tele-visit.

Prior to a tele-visit, perform a cursory equipment check to make sure that your microphone and camera are operational; you don’t want to waste you or your doctor’s time with technical issues. Also, have a list of medications you are currently taking. If you have a thermometer and a blood pressure monitor, take readings of yourself prior to the meeting. Finally, write down any questions you may have for the doctor.

If You Suspect You Have COVID-19

If you have any of the following symptoms, call your doctor:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

These are potential symptoms of COVID-19, but they could also mean you have a cold, flu or allergies. Your doctor should help guide you as to what next steps to take.

Initially, you should stay at home and isolate yourself from family and pets. You should wear a mask in the home, use a separate bathroom if possible, and maintain optimal sanitization standards. You should plan on quarantining for at least 14 days following a positive test.

If your condition worsens to the point that you have difficulty breathing, pain in your chest, mental confusion or bluish tint in your lips or face, seek care immediately. You should call 911 and describe your symptoms or go to an emergency room.

If your symptoms persist but do not significantly worsen, call ahead to your doctor’s office prior to visiting. They will instruct you as to how to visit them in a way that will put as few people at risk as possible.

If You Have Already Had COVID-19

The latest reports indicate that more than 33 million Americans have been officially diagnosed with COVID-19. Many millions more may have been infected without symptoms or such mild symptoms that they did not know they had been infected.

If you tested positive in the past or if you suspect that you may have had COVID-19, then you should alert your doctor. If 14 days have passed since you last tested negative, you are no longer an infection risk, but your long-term health may still be at risk.

There is still so much that we do not know about COVID-19 including what the lasting effects are following infection. There is emerging information that COVID-19 has long-term impacts in the following ways:

  • Heart damage—severe cases of COVID-19 typically involve an overly intense immune response that produces severe inflammation among various kinds of tissues. It has been established that this heart inflammation can cause heart failure, especially if you are suffering from issues like atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. Additionally, people who have gone through a serious bout with COVID-19 are more likely to develop blood clots which can lead to heart attacks.
  • Lung issues—many medical experts are concerned about lung function following COVID-19, especially those that developed blood clots in their lungs. There isn’t enough data yet, but a similar disease, SARS, produced lung damage in 35 percent of infected.
  • Cognitive problems—it is becoming increasingly clear that serious COVID-19 cases can leave lasting effects on the brain. In addition to COVID-19 patients that experience a stroke, there may be brain injuries that cause weakness, loss of vision, balance issues or dementia. Some health experts point to the long periods of bed rest in ICUs that could atrophy brain function.
  • Psychological issues—many people who had to go on life support for extended periods are at higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Many recovering COVID-19 patients recount flashbacks of extreme isolation in frightening, hospital settings. Many of these patients will respond positively to counseling therapy, but others may require medications to cope with PTSD symptoms. If you are struggling with any of these issues, it is important to discuss them with your doctor.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.