How to Avoid Getting Sick at the Doctor’s Office

Wash hands, stay current with vaccines, try virtual care and more

A patient waits to be called in waiting room, wearing mask to protect his health.

Wash hands, stay current with vaccines, try virtual care and more

We go to the doctor to get well or to make sure we stay healthy. But doctors’ offices and waiting rooms can fill up with sick people, so it’s important to exercise caution, even if you’re ill.

Minimize your risk of getting sick or sicker while waiting to see your doctor by following safety guidelines. Here are five tips to help you avoid getting sick at the doctor’s office.

1.   Wash your hands

Protect yourself by cleaning your hands before and after visiting a health care facility. Washing your hands with soap is the best way to remove all types of germs and chemicals from your hands.

“Handwashing can protect from the majority of illnesses we encounter,” says Aracely Bonilla Navarette, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest. “If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.”

Take advantage of hand sanitizer available in waiting rooms or bring your own.

“Always make an effort not to touch any part of your face with unwashed hands,” says Dr. Bonilla Navarette. “Your immune system will thank you.”

It’s okay to ask your health care providers if they washed their hands before they came in. And it’s also okay to ask them to clean them again before they examine you.

2. Consider the season

Schedule doctor visits early in the morning or late in the day during the fall and winter respiratory season, when infectious diseases like flu, RSV, COVID-19 and colds spread more rapidly.

“Schedule routine physical exams and tests before or after the fall and winter months, if possible, when fewer contagious illnesses are being spread around,” says Dr. Bonilla Navarette.

3.   Stay up to date with flu, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines

The flu, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines protect you and help prevent the spread of disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Everyone 6 months and older should get a yearly flu shot, with a few exceptions
  • Everyone 6 months and older should get their COVID vaccinations
  • RSV vaccines for adults ages 60 and older, pregnant women, and infants and toddlers

RSV stands for respiratory synctial virus, which is a common respiratory virus that can be dangerous for babies, toddlers and older adults.

4.   Try virtual care

Virtual care, also known as telemedicine or telehealth, has increased access to health care. In addition, virtual visits help control the spread of infectious diseases.

Virtual care uses technology that allows you to receive care from the comfort of your home. Mobile health apps and video conferencing are used to connect patients with health care providers.

Video visits can help address many illnesses and minor injuries, including colds and flu, asthma and allergies. Check with your doctor to see which option is right for you.

At Scripps, virtual care offerings also include E-visits and Symptom Checker.

5.   Follow safety rules

Hospitals and clinics made changes to increase safety at their facilities during the pandemic. Patients can do their part by following safety rules.

At Scripps, the following precautions are in place:

  • Isolating patients with COVID symptoms
  • Rigorous cleaning and disinfection for all facilities and equipment
  • Visitor guidelines

Don’t delay care

It’s important to keep essential visits with your physician. An essential visit could be one to manage a chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or neurological issues. It could be one for pre- and post-natal care and pediatric care.

Health care providers are prepared to help and ensure your safety if you need to visit them in person.

Delaying any needed care is risky. So, never hesitate to go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency.

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