Flulemma: If You Have the Flu, Should You Come in for a Non-Urgent Appointment?
This came up recently at my clinic, and I’ll offer the details for consideration. Short answer: maybe.
A family came in with their seven-year-old girl to be seen for an eye exam. Some time after she had been in our waiting room, someone approached me to let me know that the previous weekend this little girl had been ‘diagnosed with the flu.’
With that much information, the question first posed to me was: “Shouldn’t we reschedule her appointment (in this case for Eye clinic, but it could have been dental, nutrition, or pedi) for when she’s better?”
The presumption in this case is: a symptomatic child (febrile, illin’ with flu) should be home and not in clinic unless there is an urgent concern. So, sure, in the event this child was febrile and sick, this patient—and ones like her—should rebook their non urgent/electively scheduled appointments, including physicals.
At ERs around the country, and in New England, where I live, children who have milder flu-like illness are encouraged to stay home if possible, to avoid contagion and spread in waiting rooms and clinical areas.
Clearly and surely, children and adults sick with flu should be seen at a clinic or ER if it is felt they are becoming worrisomely sick with the flu (eg pneumonia, dehydration, etc).
Dr Pelton applies the back to work/back to school rule (whether or not a patient is on an anti-flu virus medication, such as Tamiflu, or not): Patients are able to return to clinic for these appointments when they are 24 hours without fever, off anti-fever medications (such as Tylenol or Motrin). Otherwise, if they are unwell-but not seriously sick-and are coming in for an elective appointment to a health care provider (eg eye exam, dental, even physical exam), they should be directed to reschedule until they are better.
In the case of our little girl, she had been without fever for a couple of days, and was feeling better…and she was able to be seen. In this season of an extraordinary pandemic, we learn as we go, and this was one less appointment we had to reschedule. No doubt, there’ll be many more. It is only November after all.
Hope that helps answer the quandary.
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