When your child gets sick, schedules get thrown out the window, work plans change (for the worse) and everything gets turned upside down in a flash.

Dr. Courtney Self smiles for a photo.
Dr. Courtney Self

“Illnesses can come up at any point in time. Parents get phone calls from schools and daycares all the time with fevers or cough,” said Dr. Courtney Self at Novant Health Township Pediatrics in Matthews, “and we are always happy to see you in the office,”

That’s why Novant Health has a 24-hour guarantee to see a physician when you really need one. The guarantee applies to patients seeking urgent, sick visit appointments in primary care, pediatrics and ob-gyn services Monday through Friday. If you need to see a doctor, call your provider's office. On weekends, contact Novant Health GoHealth Urgent Care. Another option: Novant Health Express at Walgreens.

During normal business hours, Self recommended that parents call the office to schedule a visit. MyChart is another resource people can use to make an appointment to see a doctor. Novant Health Care Connections also offers after-hours support with scheduling appointments.

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In some cases, emergency care may be needed. A fever in a baby less than two months old is cause for a trip to the emergency room, Self said. Other things that require immediate care include repeated vomiting or dehydration, as well as concern for an asthma flare.

“With allergies being in full force right now, we’re seeing a lot of kids struggling with asthma. If a child is coughing or experiencing shortness of breath, that is something that I would say requires a more urgent follow up.”

Depending on the type of concern, it’s also possible for your health care provider to “see” you via a phone or video visit. A no-contact visit keeps you and them safe.

Stay on top of check-up and vaccines

While it’s important to see the doctor when a child feels sick, annual well-visits are just as important to living a long, healthy life. Regular visits with a pediatrician are crucial to maintaining wellness and catching problems early. But pediatricians have noted a concerning decrease in vaccinations and well-checks since the onset of COVID-19.

“These gaps in care or lack of adhering to the vaccine schedules can really put our children at risk,” Self said.

The immunization schedule, set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, protects children from at least 15 potentially serious diseases by the time they finish high school – including measles, mumps, polio, chickenpox and others. Adhering to these recommendations is “one of the best things we can do to protect our children,” Self said.

Vaccinating children on time not only protects them, but others including newborns who are too young for certain vaccines or people with weakened immune systems. A 2020 report from the CDC noted a troubling drop in routine childhood vaccinations because of families staying at home during the pandemic, but Self said now is the time to get back on track.

“If you have missed vaccines because of COVID-19, for fear of coming into the office, we can bring you in safely and get caught up,” Self said.

Novant Health has high-level safety protocols in place in every clinic. Chairs are spaced apart in the waiting room to allow for social distancing, every room is sanitized in between patients, clinics are cleaned nightly and all patients and team members must wear masks and get their temperature taken.

Tracking growth and development

Children are seen most frequently in the first two years of life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends seven well-child visits between the ages of 1 and 4. After age 4, it’s recommended that children are seen for an annual checkup.

These appointments allow pediatricians to monitor growth, developmental milestones, blood pressure, cholesterol, hearing, vision, and more. It’s also an opportunity to discuss mental health or behavioral concerns.

“It’s all about relationships and building trust between us, the parents and the child,” Self said. “The better they know us and the better we know them – there’s comfort in that relationship and we want to be there for them.”

As children get back to in-person learning, Self also reminded parents that a sports physical can be completed at the same time as wellness visit. There’s no need to schedule a separate appointment.