The Other COVID Health Hazard: Delayed Care and Missed Appointments
When it comes to health these days, any illness that includes cough, fever, aches, fatigue, or other common COVID-19 symptoms is typically the number one concern for patients. And many people feel relieved if they can avoid the doctor’s office or a trip to the hospital. A September report by the CDC found that about 40 percent of adults had delayed or avoided medical care due to COVID concerns.
Ignoring non-COVID symptoms or health conditions can lead to more serious or worsening health issues later, according to Dr. Javier Gutierrez of LeBauer HealthCare at Stoney Creek. The cost of delaying medical care can take a high toll both physically and financially.
Essential Health Care You Shouldn’t Delay
There are four basic types of medical care you shouldn’t put off. Doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other care providers all have safeguards in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during visits.
- Ongoing Care for Chronic Conditions
“Chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes are chronic for a reason – they need ongoing treatment to prevent long-term complications like a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. It is important to receive regular checkups to ensure you are staying as healthy as you can,” says Dr. Gutierrez.
2. Appointments for New Symptoms
Sometimes adults or parents will put off making an appointment for a new symptom, hoping the problem will go away on its own. However, many health issues can become harder to treat over time. For example, delaying care for an ear, sinus, or urinary tract infection can result in the need to take stronger antibiotics or antibiotics for a longer period of time. On a more serious note, rapidly changing bowel habits or blood in the stool could indicate the need for a colon cancer screening.
New symptoms that increasingly get worse or persist more than a few days mean you should call your doctor’s office. A provider may be able to conduct a video visit for some conditions. If you do need an in-person appointment, strict COVID-19 screenings for patients and staff, masks, and frequent cleaning of surfaces will all help you avoid coronavirus exposure.
3. Screenings and Vaccines
Routine screenings such as pap smears, breast exams, prostate cancer screenings, and blood work for cholesterol and blood sugar are all examples of care that shouldn’t be delayed. In addition, children and teens should stick to their vaccine schedules.
“Vaccines help protect children from diseases that can be just as serious or more serious than COVID,” says Dr. Gutierrez. “Measles, rubella, bacterial meningitis, and other preventable infectious diseases can have serious complications that can affect long-term health.”
4. Emergency Care
Since the start of the pandemic, emergency department physicians are seeing an increase in patients who delayed care for serious illnesses. What could have been a routine appendectomy ends up being a ruptured appendix that requires days of hospitalization. Patients may show up days or hours after a heart attack; yet, some heart damage could have been prevented if he or she had called 911 as soon as they started having symptoms.
If you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, difficulty breathing, or an injury with severe pain or bleeding, always call 911 immediately.
Need a Primary Care Visit for You or Your Child?
LeBauer Primary Care offices provide safe virtual and in-person visits for adults and children. New patients can request an appointment with our easy online form or by calling the office they wish to visit. Existing patients can schedule an appointment through MyChart or by calling their office.