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When COVID first hit last winter, it seemed only natural to postpone our annual check-ups.
But as we pass the one-year mark of coronavirus, it’s become more and more apparent that we can’t continue to put our lives on hold. And while vaccination is fully underway, we still don’t know exactly when things will get back to “normal” again (or if it will get back to “normal”).
But even as we try to go on with lives, you’re probably wondering, is it safe to go for my annual doctor’s appointment? To my gyno? To the dentist? (I know I’ve personally been putting off my annual skin screening).
Because although some of your appointments can be done over Zoom, there are just some things that need to be done in-person (like your annual mammogram).
Below, we address every question you have about going to the doctor, gyno, vet, pharmacy, and more during COVID.
(Pssst… make sure you keep up with the latest guidelines as things continue to change over the next few months).
Is it Safe to Go to Your Annual Physical Exam?
According to the CDC, doctor appointments should happen via telemedicine, if possible (i.e. video chat, phone, e-mail).
If you believe you have an urgent medical situation and think you might need an in-person appointment, talk to your doctor about what to do. The two of you can come up with a personalized treatment plan to keep you safe.
Otherwise, there is no need to go to your annual physical.
Is it Safe to Go to the Gyno?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it’s completely fine to delay your regular check-up as long as you don’t have urgent concerns.
Exceptions to that, however, include fevers or vaginal infections unrelated to COVCID, symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, severe vaginal bleeding, and/or problems recovering from a recent surgery or procedure.
If you need birth control, luckily, there are plenty of ways to get your BC online and via mail. Our personal recommendation is Nurx, which has been reliably providing birth control, home STI tests, herpes treatments, the morning-after pill, HIV Prep, and more. Nurx delivers all of these products free, as long as your health insurance or Medicaid is willing to cover the cost of the birth control itself.
Is it Safe to Go to the Dentist?
Whether or not you should go to the dentist during COVID is a bit on the controversial side. Back in August 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was completely fine to skip your routine cleanings during COVID. Emergency situations like pain, infections, or other issues should not be ignored, however.
The American Dental Association “respectfully yet strongly disagrees with WHO, however. They responded with a statement in which they called dentistry “an essential health care” service.
The ADA President Dr. Gehani said,
“Millions of patients have safely visited their dentists in the past few months for the full range of dental services. With appropriate PPE, dental care should continue to be delivered during global pandemics or other disaster situations.”
So whether you visit the dentist for your annual cleaning is going to have to be a personal one.
Should You Get Your Annual Cancer Screening?
Before we get down to brass tacks, it should be stated that if you have a history of cancer or at a higher risk of getting cancer, you should discuss a personal plan with your doctor. The below screening rules only apply to people who have never been diagnosed with cancer.
The following guidelines are according to the American Cancer Society.
Cervical Cancer Screenings
In non-pandemic times, gynos usually recommend that you get a pap smear every 3-5 years. However, during COVID, the American Cancer Society says it’s fine to postpone your cervical cancer screening as long as your past test results have been normal.
Breast Cancer Screenings
In non-pandemic years, doctors recommend that women over the age of 55 get a mammogram every two years. However, if you had a normal mammogram within the last year, it’s ok totally ok postpone your next screening up to 2 years during COVID. (Again, these rules only apply if you have an average risk of getting breast cancer. If you have an increased risk or have previously had breast cancer, you should check with your doctor before making any decisions).
Is it Safe to Go to the Pharmacy?
According to the CDC, pharmacy visits should be kept to a minimum, if possible. Luckily, most pharmacies offer free delivery service by mail. The exceptions to this, however, are typically reserved for controlled substances, which require a photo ID and a signature in person.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID and can’t go to pick up your controlled meds, pharmacies will often allow a family member to do so for you.
Is it Safe to Take Your Pet to the Vet?
While many vets only offered emergency or urgent care at the beginning of COVID, most have opened up curbside services. This means you can now drop off your pet for their annual appointment without having to ever go inside.
At this point, we know that the likelihood of your dog or cat getting COVID is close to none. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),
“There is no evidence to suggest that animals, including pets, that may be incidentally infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19.”
So while you don’t have to worry about your pets getting or transferring COVID, you still want to make sure that you keep their accessories clean. The AVMA says,
“While the risk of transfer of SARS-CoV-2 from collars, leashes, and carriers also appears to be limited, it’s always a good idea to keep pet collars, leashes, and carriers clean”
If you’re still nervous, the American Animal Hospital Association has laid out all the precautions that veterinary hospitals have been taking during COVID.
They also detailed what to expect when you have a curbside appointment if you’d like to prepare for your appointment.