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Emergency department (ER) or pediatric urgent care?

December 9, 2022 Pediatrics

By: Our partners at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Finding yourself with a sick child on a weekend, when your pediatrician is out of office, can be stressful. Luckily, there are options available for you and your child, so you can get back to your (busy) life.

Depending on your child’s illness or injury, there are times when urgent care center can help—and other times when a visit to the emergency department (ED) is necessary.

Knowing the difference between both can help you get your child the care they need as soon as possible.

When to go to pediatric urgent care center vs. the ER

If possible, your first step should be to talk with your child’s pediatrician to determine if urgent care is the right way to get treatment. But usually taking your child to an urgent care center can help with conditions including:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Coughs, colds and sore throats
  • Cuts or minor gashes
  • Dehydration or diarrhea
  • Earaches
  • Fever in babies older than 2 months
  • Headaches
  • Minor burns
  • Minor head injuries
  • Pinkeye
  • Rashes
  • Removal of ticks, splinters, hooks and other sharp objects
  • Sports injuries
  • Vomiting

When faced with a true emergency, take your child to the ER instead of urgent care. In these situations go to the closest ER or call 911:

  • Life-threatening injury or illness requiring immediate attention
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever in infants younger than 2 months
  • Unconsciousness