Urgent Care or Emergency Room?

We often get questions about when to take children to urgent care centers vs. emergency rooms. Here's some insight...

Let's start with Urgent Care:

Urgent Care centers were designed to offer care to patients for ailments they would usually go to a primary care doctor to treat. With convenience and accessibility, they offer care for common and non-life-threatening conditions when primary care offices are closed. Conditions might include sore throat, sprain, rash, minor laceration, ear infection or minor burn.

Urgent care centers do present some risk when dealing with pediatric patients. Children should always be seen by a doctor or medical provider who is trained and experienced in evaluating and treating young children. Illnesses, treatments and medications differ greatly in pediatric patients, and just because someone is qualified to treat adults, does not mean they will be able to safely and effectively treat young children.

One should use caution when taking children to an urgent care facility, as there are very few facilities with pediatricians on staff.

Now let's take a look at the Emergency Room:

Emergency rooms should be reserved for severe, time-sensitive illnesses and injuries – conditions your primary care office cannot treat – for example, labored breathing, major head injuries, loss of vision, severe lacerations and bleeding, overdose, attempted suicide, heart symptoms, or excruciating abdominal pain.

Again, it is very important to do your best to use an Emergency Room that is staffed with a pediatrician, and not just a general physician. Children’s Hospital is always an excellent Emergency Room option for young children.

PATM families, please remember that we have extended our office hours and walk-in clinics to ensure our patients have access to appropriate pediatric care seven days a week. If you are concerned or need guidance, feel free to call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will help guide you – if you can wait for office hours, whether you need to be seen at an urgent care, or whether your child needs to be taken to an Emergency Room.

Always call 911 immediately if someone is unconscious, having trouble breathing or has a serious injury.