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Not Enough Parents Can Get Same-Day Appointments When They Have Sick Kids

Of all the joys of parenting, taking your sick kid to the doctor ranks pretty low on the list — falling somewhere between realizing your own mortality and making small talk with moms named Cheryl. Unfortunately, a recent survey of 2,036 parents highlighted an even worse possibility: being stuck at home with your little invalid, unable to get an appointment.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, a leading measure of today’s most important child health issues and trends, found that of the 89 percent of parents who initially attempted to make an appointment with a doctor when their child woke up with a sore throat and fever, only 53 percent were confident they’d be seen that day. Sixty percent were confident they could get same-day advice over the phone, while 50 percent of parents reported going that route instead of bothering with an appointment at all.

Washing their hands of all of it (and then washing them again), 40 percent of parents pursued alternative like urgent care clinics. One-quarter of parents expressed confidence that they could get help from their provider via email — in case your phone is covered in superhuman kid’s germs and you’re not taking any chances.

The poll concerned parents of kids less than 18 years of age, meaning the data pool was quite large. But Pediatrician and poll co-director Gary Freed said over the phone that when they compared different age groups, parents of teenagers and toddlers alike still had the same experience. Freed also told us there was also little variation between mothers and fathers in terms of efficacy or confidence getting same-day appointments and advice. Regional differences had little impact as well.

Finally, Freed found that most doctors budget a certain amount of sick visits per day, and advises parents call as early as possible before they’re snatched up by other tiny patients. More importantly, he suggested that parents have a conversation with their provider ahead of time about how many open appointments they set aside.

“One of the most important things parents can do is speak with their providers about these policies so that there are no misunderstandings about the best way to get advice or be seen when they have a sick child,” he said. Do it before that virus going around strikes your house.