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When to go: Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care

nurse helps young girl with hurt arm

When your kiddo is sick or injured it’s the worst. And of course, it always happens when your doctor’s office is closed. So, the dilemma every parent faces at some point…do you go to the Emergency Room (ER) or Urgent Care? Generally speaking, urgent cares are designed to save unnecessary trips to the ER, and are usually easier to access, have shorter wait times and cost less than an ER visit.

Remember, if your child has a life-threatening illness or injury, always call 911. But not every situation is as clear-cut. If your child breaks a bone, has a high fever or an asthma attack, what should you do? This chart can help you determine where to take your child for immediate treatment.

Emergency Room

Urgent Care

Asthma attack (severe)

Allergies

Bleeding that won't stop

Asthma attack (minor)

Broken bone (looks bent, curved or deformed)

Broken bone (not bent)

Burn (severe)

Bronchiolitis

Cast problems (soiled or wet)

Burn (minor)

Cut (severe)

Cold or cough

Fainting

Cut (minor)

Fever (infant less than 2 months old)

Dehydration

Head injury (loss of consciousness or extreme impact)

Diarrhea

Headache (migraine)

Dizziness

Pneumonia (diagnosed and with worsening symptoms)

Earache and ear infection

Poisoning

Fever (children over 2 months old)

Seizure

Headache

Stomach pain (severe)

Head injury (no loss of consciousness, minor impact)

Swallowed object

Insect or minor dog bite

Trouble breathing

Nausea, vomiting

Ultrasound, CT scan or MRI

Pink eye

 

Rash

 

Sore throat

 

Sprain or strain

 

Stitches (from minor cut)

 

Stomach pain (mild)

 

Urinary infection

 

Vomiting

Whether you take your child to Urgent Care or the ER, it's helpful to look for a health care system that is focused on pediatrics and is staffed by board-certified pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners. These facilities are equipped with people and equipment that can hopefully help make a bad situation better for your child.