The American Academy of Pediatrics is Trying to Make Waiting Rooms Healthier

If you're a parent, chances are you hate waiting rooms. Nothing good ever happens in waiting rooms. There are hour-long waits, sick people all around, cranky, hangry children, and endless forms to fill out. And no matter how much you tell your kid not to do it, he's going to put something in his mouth. 

Waiting rooms are bad news for parents, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is trying to make them a little less germy, thanks to a new policy that is focused on keeping illnesses more controlled in the waiting room environment. 

waiting rooms
Image via Unsplash/ Markus Spiske

In October, the AAP announced the release of their new policy statement, “Infection Prevention and Control in Pediatric Ambulatory Settings,” which centers around infection prevention and control in health clinics where children are present. AKA, waiting rooms. 

You may have even noticed some of the changes taking place at your local doctor's offices or urgent care centers. But if not, you should soon. Change can be slow in healthcare settings. And most of the policy recommendations are things that many doctor's offices already do. Some of the policy recommendations include:

  • Placement of surgical masks and hand sanitizer in the waiting room. If you have a cold or for any other reason are coughing or sneezing, put a mask on and stop the spread of germs. Same goes for your kiddos. 
  • Mandatory flu vaccines for all the staff in the office. This is to help ensure that the healthcare staff, who see many patients a day and go between sick kid to sick kid, aren't spreading the virus around as they try to treat kids. 
  • Visual reminders of cough/sneezing etiquette. Everyone needs to be reminded now and then to cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. And to dispose of tissues in the garbage, not leave them lying about or stuffed in your pocket where they may fall out and potentially infect someone else. 
  • No hard-to-clean toys in waiting rooms. That means no plush animals, books, or anything that can't be properly sanitized between patients or days. If your child needs a lovey, you should bring your own instead of relying on waiting room toys. That way, germs are kept to their respective owners. 
  • High-risk patients should not be in the waiting room at all. Patients who immune-compromised or who have chronic lung conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, which make them even more susceptible to lung infections, should not wait out in the waiting room. Instead, they should be placed directly into the exam room. 

The changes are a great step towards trying to make everyone healthier, especially during cold and flu season. If you have sick kiddos, consider letting the staff know so they can be sure to take any precautions necessary, such as re-stocking masks, tissues, or sanitizer. And conversely, if you have a child with a compromised immune system, request that you be placed in an exam room right away, if at all possible. 

I have also heard of some doctor's offices, especially in more populated areas, having two waiting rooms for children waiting to be seen. One for healthy children who are just getting a well-child check-up and another for children who are actually sick. I think that's such a great idea! I wish that was something mainstream. There are so many check-ups that kids need in the first year of life that it only makes sense. I dreaded taking my babies into well-child check-ups simply because I was afraid that they would pick up some kind of horrible virus while we were there. Go in with a healthy baby, come out with a sick baby. 


But hopefully, with all the new changes and recommendations from the AAP, and of course, families that follow all of those recommendations, we can all get through cold and flu season together–with a little less germs spread around. 

What do you think?

The American Academy of Pediatrics is Trying to Make Waiting Rooms Healthier

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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