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Should you see your doctor or take kids to the pediatrician during the pandemic?

Dr. John Torres shared advice about visits to the doctor or pediatrician and how to stay protected from coronavirus.
/ Source: TODAY

The guidelines issued by federal and state agencies to stop the spread of coronavirus have included whether to wear a mask in public, how to maintain social distancing and what sheltering in place entails.

But what do you do if you need to visit a doctor or take your child to the pediatrician for something unrelated to coronavirus?

Experts say parents should maintain pediatrician visits for children 2 and under during the coronavirus pandemic if possible.
Experts say parents should maintain pediatrician visits for children 2 and under during the coronavirus pandemic if possible. Getty Images

NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres provided answers to those pressing questions on TODAY, as well as addressing whether a virtual visit to the doctor is an option to consider.

Should I delay routine doctor visits?

"If you have a routine visit, one that you could put off, you definitely want to put it off because any time you go outside of your house or apartment, you have a risk of contracting coronavirus," Torres said. "You want to be very careful with that."

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If I cannot miss an appointment, what precautions should I take?

Speak to your doctor to see if it's something that can be postponed. If it cannot be put off, reach out to the doctor's office.

"What you want to do is call ahead and say, 'What kind of precautions are you taking in the office?" Torres said. "How are you making sure that I'm not gonna get sick?"

He noted that some offices are taking patients directly into a private room immediately after they enter the office. Others have had patients wait in their cars in the parking lot and then called them in when it's time to be seen by the doctor. Some doctors might even be willing to check up on you in your car.

"The one thing you don't want to do is be in a waiting room, especially a waiting room with somebody who is sick," Torres asid. "If you are, then ask them to either move the sick person or move you, and if they don't, I would think hard about leaving at that point and saying I'll come back for this visit because again you have the risk of contracting coronavirus at that point."

Dr. John Tabacco, an internal and sports medicine doctor in Arlington, Virginia, also shared with TODAY specific advice for older Americans who who are used to going to the doctor for regular check-ins and can no longer do so due to the pandemic.

Should I take my child to the pediatrician?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidance on this question, which Torres said has to do with the child's age.

"With kids it's a little more important to get those visits, and what the current recommendation is from a lot of experts is if they're younger than 2, then you want to go ahead and keep those well baby visits,'' he said. "If they're above 2 and it's a well child visit, just ask them 'Can I delay this? Is there a reason I to come right now?' And if you can delay it, delay it."

If the visit is for an acute illness or injury, Torres advised to take the same precautions as with any doctor's visit by calling ahead and finding out what precautions the office is taking and the procedure to follow for visits.

Are virtual visits an option?

Doctors and hospitals are turning to telemedicine during the pandemic, which means using technology to deliver care to a patient at another site.

"Virtual visits are a big option, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is actually recommending that most pediatricians switch a lot of these to virtual visits,'' Torres said. "There's a lot of telemedicine, tele-mental health going out right now, and so see if you can do it that way.

"There's some things, even strep throat, a lot of times they can diagnose through telemedicine, so if you can do that, that's a great option. You can do it from your house or your apartment."