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Don’t put off needed medical care because of pandemic fears

People have been putting off going to the doctor, getting vaccines and even going to the ER all because of fears of COVID-19. But putting off those visits may not outweigh the risks of infection.

Consumer Reports explains why it’s important to get the medical care you need, even during a pandemic.

For weeks, Charley Bednarsh was experiencing persistent back pain and shortness of breath, but she decided not to see a doctor.

“I felt that I wasn’t sick. I just didn’t want to go to the hospital and use up the resources,” says Bednarsh.

Atticus, her trained therapy dog, sensing something might be wrong, started howling constantly. Bednarsh finally decided to call her cardiologist who convinced her to go to the ER.

“She said, ‘you suffered like a major heart attack.’ And I’m thinking, ‘you’re talking to me?‘” says Bednarsh.

Bednarsh is not alone. Almost half of Americans said they or a family member skipped or put off medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“People should not ignore serious symptoms. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, including signs of a heart attack or a stroke, call 911, or go to the ER immediately,” said Kevin Loria, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

If you’re unsure if you should go in for a screening test, office visit, checkup or procedure, give your doctor’s office a call.

“They can let you know whether if you should come in or not. The same applies with contacting your kids’ pediatrician office about keeping up with vaccines,” says Loria.

Going to the doctor will likely look and feel different. Beforehand, you may also be screened for COVID-19 symptoms by phone or email, and your temperature might be checked before stepping in the door.

When you do arrive at the doctor’s office, you may be asked to come alone and wait in the parking lot instead of the waiting room.

“You should also take the same precautions when going to your doctor’s office as you would going elsewhere else in public, so wear a mask, try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching anything,” Loria said.

After her surgery, Bednarsh has returned to the hospital several times for follow-up visits and has felt safe every time.

“If you are experiencing anything that’s different, at least make the call,” Bednarsh.

You can also expect a lot of the same changes at your dentist’s office, and those who need crowns replaced, fillings, and bridges might take priority over those who are due for a cleaning. So, if you have to delay that cleaning, remember to brush and floss regularly.