There’s no good data that says having a sick kid waiting room is going to prevent transmission.
The New York Times: Pediatricians' New Germ-Control Advice: Bring Your Own Toys
by Perri Klass, M.D.
As cold season and flu season settle in, many parents worry about taking children to the doctor’s office, and sitting in a waiting room full of sick children.
It’s well known that hospitals can be dangerous places for disease transmission; that’s why they have thorough infection control policies. But most pediatric medical care takes place in the office or the clinic. So the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement, “Infection Prevention and Control in Pediatric Ambulatory Settings,” to help minimize the spread of germs in waiting rooms and exam rooms.
Much of what the policy recommends goes back to the essentials of preventing infections, like the importance of hand hygiene and immunizations. But specific advice for the waiting room includes bringing along a toy from home. Even if they are disinfected daily, as the policy advises, toys that multiple children handle in the waiting room may harbor germs, so the new statement suggests that parents pack their own.
There can also be microbes on the chairs and the tables and, of course, the doorknobs, so avail yourself of hand sanitizer, and discourage any passing toddlers from making contact with your baby, even if they look healthy.
It’s not just the obviously coughing children you have to worry about. Plenty of children look well but are still contagious, especially at the beginning of respiratory illnesses. While some pediatricians have separate waiting areas for sick kids and well kids, "there’s no good data that says having a sick kid waiting room is going to prevent transmission,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the director of infectious disease and professor of pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, who is a co-author of the policy statement.
But concerned parents don’t necessarily have to stay in the waiting room, she said; you can check with the desk about how long it’s likely to be and then take a walk or wait in the car, and ask the staff to call your cellphone when it’s your child’s turn.
Learn more about the services offered by the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy.