Telehealth for children allows parents to schedule remote or virtual appointments for children’s symptoms and conditions. Healthcare professionals can assess a child’s well-being via real-time video conferencing and, in many cases, prescribe treatment from afar. Virtual visits are more convenient for sick children and their parents as there’s no need to travel to a clinic. Many health insurance plans now cover pediatric telehealth appointments.
Of course, some health concerns are best handled in-person. Find out which symptoms and medical needs can be managed via telehealth and which require an in-person exam.
Fever—defined as an oral temperature greater than 100 degrees F—is a common symptom of infection. Fever itself isn’t harmful, but some infections require medical treatment. Others do not.
If your child spikes a fever, a virtual appointment can help you figure out if in-person care is needed or if you can safely keep your child at home. If your child also has a sore throat, your healthcare provider may recommend bringing him in for a strep throat test. If the fever is accompanied by ear pain, the provider may advise comfort care and close monitoring of symptoms.
Most cough and cold symptoms do not require medical treatment. However, a cough can also be a symptom of a condition that requires close medical monitoring, such as COVID-19 or asthma.
Healthcare providers can assess a child’s cough and breathing via a video appointment. The provider will also ask questions to pinpoint the likely cause of symptoms. In some cases, you may be directed to bring your child in for an in-person exam or chest X-ray.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology officially supports the use of telemedicine for allergy patients, including children with food allergies, pet allergies, and hay fever and other seasonal allergies. In fact, because most allergic reactions resolve within 24 hours, many allergists consider virtual visits ideal as they allow for real-time evaluation of allergy symptoms.
Telehealth appointments are also great for patient education and allergy medicine management. Serious allergic reactions (including those that cause difficulty breathing) require in-person care, perhaps at an urgent care clinic or hospital emergency room.
Any change in bowel habits is a cause for concern. In most cases, though, you don’t have to take your child to the doctor. Healthcare providers can assess most cases of diarrhea and constipation via telehealth.
The provider will ask you about the frequency, color and consistency of your child’s bowel movements, as well as your child’s overall health. He’ll want to see your child too. Healthcare professionals can tell a lot about a child’s overall health via visual assessment, even if that assessment occurs via video conferencing.
Rashes account for 12 million pediatric office visits each year, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. In most cases, though, an in-person visit is not necessary. Healthcare providers can identify most common rashes (including poison ivy, eczema, fifth disease, chickenpox, and scarlet fever) via videoconferencing, and can recommend appropriate treatment. If prescription medicine is required to treat the rash, the provider can usually submit an order directly to the pharmacy of your choice.
Most belly aches don’t require medical evaluation, but if your child is complaining of persistent tummy pain or can’t keep food or fluids down, you might want to schedule a virtual appointment. The healthcare provider can assess your child’s overall appearance and may be able to identify the source of your child’s distress via careful questioning. If your child’s symptoms suggest an intestinal blockage or likely appendicitis, the provider will refer you to a local clinic for additional tests.
Most cases of abdominal pain and vomiting can be safely managed at home.
Children with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes often rely on prescription medicine to control their symptoms. These medications may need to be adjusted periodically in response to the child’s growth, activity level, or underlying disease progression. The development of unpleasant side effects or approval of a new drug may also warrant a change in the child’s medication regimen.
Providers can evaluate a child’s response to treatment, tweak dosages, refill prescriptions, and prescribe new medications as needed via telehealth.
A red, itchy eye can be a symptom of pink eye, or conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye. Pink eye is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection and it is highly contagious.
Healthcare providers can usually assess, diagnose, and treat pink eye remotely. If needed, the provider will prescribe antibiotic or pain-relieving eye drops. You’ll also receive at-home care instructions.
Telehealth visits are increasingly used to meet patients’ mental health needs. Given the shortage of child and adolescent mental health providers in many parts of the country, your child may have better luck connecting virtually with a qualified provider. Therapy sessions may be via video conferencing or telephone. Some providers also offer text messaging.
Pediatricians and psychiatrists can also virtually review, renew or adjust medication for anxiety and depression.
If your child gets hurt playing soccer or twists an ankle while out on a family hike, a telehealth appointment can help you figure out if you need to make a trip to an urgent care clinic or not. A healthcare provider can visually assess the injured area via video and check movement, pain and function. If the provider suspects a broken bone, you’ll probably be sent to a local facility for an X-ray. Otherwise, the provider will instruct you on home care.
Using telehealth for sports injuries has been shown to decrease the cost of care.