Doctor examining a child in a hospital.

Doctor examining a child in a hospital.

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Do you need care quickly or right now? Urgent care is generally for non-life threatening illnesses or injuries. The emergency room (ER) is for potentially life-threatening problems like uncontrollable bleeding, chest pain, loss of consciousness, and about a dozen other things. When to rush your child to an ER is really up to your discretion, but there are some general guidelines about choosing between urgent care centers and the hospital’s ER.

Urgent vs Emergency

According to Dupage Immediate Care, an urgent care in Oak Brook, urgent care facilities can examine you faster than an ER for non-life threatening issues. Emergency rooms prioritize patients which leaves someone with a sprain or ear infection waiting for hours to be helped. Some urgent cares will allow you to set up an appointment to come in to decrease your wait time. However urgent care often closes late at night while an ER is open 24/7.

Cost Comparison

The average cost for an urgent care visit is usually around $100 while for the ER the cost often exceeds $1,000 depending on your insurance. Urgent care doesn’t have as much equipment or readily available specialists like an ER but it’s often cheaper to visit. If you go the urgent care and find out you need something like a CT or MRI they may not be prepared to assist you. That leaves you with a bill from urgent care and the ER. While an ambulance ride to the ER can cost over $1,000, always call 911 if your child is unresponsive, has severe blood loss, or difficulty breathing.

Better Safe Than Sorry

While the flu, a cold, and stomach pains can be treated at a walk-in location, trust your gut if it says to go to the ER. Severe stomach pains can mean pancreatitis or appendicitis which will require more than urgent care can offer. Children and infants can’t fight off infections as well as adults so the ER can be the safer choice. A child with a temperature above 100.4 degrees or below 97.8 degrees should be taken to the ER.

When making the choice between urgent care or the ER you want to play it safe, especially with your child. Urgent care can be used for routine things, such as immunizations, and minor pains or illness. While the long wait time at an ER can seem dreadful, it provides you with a higher level of comfort knowing your child is in a highly qualified physician’s care with all the equipment necessary.