Seeking emergency medical help and routine care are as critical as ever, even during COVID-19

Did your kids get their well-child checkups and shots this spring and summer, before school starts? Have you and members of your immediate family visited the dentist or gotten your eyes checked since the pandemic started?

When you felt that sharp pain in your chest or arm, or had a spell of debilitating shortness of breath or dizziness or unusual fatigue, did you head right to the emergency room?

Or, did you hesitate?

If you answered in the negative to any of these questions, you need to rethink your decisions. Keeping Jim and Janey current on their childhood vaccinations is critical. Preserving dental and eye health is important for everyone. And no one should think twice about going to the emergency room with signs of heart trouble or possible stroke — it can mean the difference between life and death.

And when the flu season hits, as it soon will, getting a flu shot will also be important, to help fend off the non-COVID-19 fever and chills for which, at least, we have the ability to get a shot.

Yet the evidence suggests many people have hesitated to see the doctor for needed care during this pandemic. The falloff in both routine care and emergency-room visits has greatly alarmed pediatricians, heart doctors and others.

In April, cardiac specialists from all three of Cleveland’s major hospitals wrote in a op-ed that they were seeing double-digit drops in the procedures used to treat two kinds of serious heart attacks — not what they might expect in such a high-stress time. They suggested that COVID-19 fears or confusion about symptoms could be deterring emergency-room visits, and leading to unnecessary deaths.

In late June, a doctor from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus reported during one of Gov. Mike DeWine’s regular coronavirus briefings that, statewide, childhood vaccinations were off by about 45%. As some schools reopen for in-person classes, if parents still haven’t caught their children up on needed shots, this gap could have serious consequences should herd immunity be affected, and children suddenly exposed to serious and potentially fatal childhood diseases like measles for which we have ample and effective vaccines.

During the closure of nonessential businesses, dental and eye clinics largely closed — but many if not most have reopened. Don’t let that cataract go undetected, or your cavities grow. If you have safety concerns, talk to the medical professionals in these offices and let them explain to you the precautions they are taking. Chances are, you will be reassured.

The return to normalcy which we all crave means keeping ourselves as healthy and fit as we can until then. Seeing to both routine and emergency health care needs is just as important as taking proper coronavirus precautions when we go out, shop or work.

It is our health, and our futures, that we will be preserving.

— Cleveland Plain Dealer; Online: