“Urgent care versus the ER versus your doctor’s office: Some situations are no-brainers, but many fall in a gray zone of uncertainty,” says Therese Canares, an emergency physician for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
How is a parent to make the right call? Consider the five scenarios below. If you couldn’t get in to see your pediatrician within a day or two, would you head straight to the ER—or make a trip to the nearest urgent care center instead?
- Your child hits his head and appears to pass out or lose consciousness for a few seconds.
- Your child is less than 2 months old and has a fever (a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Your child has had a few episodes of vomiting or diarrhea—without blood in the stool—but has no belly pain or signs of dehydration.
- You suspect your child has a broken bone, particularly if there is visible swelling or unevenness and bumps in the injured area—a sign that the broken bone is misaligned.
- Your child has a fever accompanied by cold symptoms, and you suspect it may be the flu.
(See below for guidelines—though Canares cautions that the first step should always be calling your pediatrician’s office or an after-hours answering service to discuss the symptoms with a triage nurse or a physician.)
1. ER; 2. ER; 3. Urgent care; 4. ER; 5. Urgent care