ER vs Urgent Care: How to Know the Best Option for Your Child


You want your child to be safe and healthy, but sometimes kids get sick or hurt. For immediate care, you can visit the ER or an urgent care center. Ahead, find four guidelines for determining where to seek treatment.

Choose the ER When Time Is Critical

Normally, when your child is sick or hurt, your first step should be to call the doctor. Your child’s physician can provide advice on where to take your child for treatment. However, in some situations, waiting for a response would waste critical minutes. When treatment must be carried out without delay, that’s a clear sign that you should head to the ER. Examples include head injuries, seizures, serious burns or breathing difficulties.

Take Newborns to the ER

Fever in a newborn is an emergency situation. Babies younger than two or three months should be seen right away if their rectal temperature reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Newborns should also be taken to the ER if they are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. Emergency care is required for sick babies because bacterial infections may quickly affect an infant’s nervous system or cause sepsis. The ER has the specialty tests and equipment to handle newborn care.

Treat Childhood Illness at Urgent Care

Kids get sick. It’s pretty much a fact of childhood. Once the newborn stage has passed, most childhood illnesses do not require emergency care. If your child is experiencing symptoms such as an aching ear, a goopy eye, or a sore throat, his or her condition can usually be evaluated in an urgent care center with pediatric services. You can also take your child to urgent care for vomiting, diarrhea, rashes or influenza symptoms.

Go to Urgent Care for Minor Injuries

Serious broken bones are a case for the ER, but an urgent care center can patch up minor breaks or sprains. Lacerations that don’t involve great blood loss can be seen at an urgent care facility. The doctors there can provide stitches or other closures. If your child sustains a minor burn from hot liquid or a hot surface, seek treatment from an urgent care center. The exception is when the burn is near the eyes.

When a true emergency arises, you should not hesitate to take your child to the ER. However, situations that aren’t life-threatening can be treated at urgent care. By visiting urgent care instead of the ER, you may save time and money.

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