Jun 20, 2017, 1:38:06 PM CDT Oct 2, 2019, 12:15:20 PM CDT

When to take your child to an urgent care vs. the emergency room

doctor bandaging little girls arm doctor bandaging little girls arm

If your child is sick or hurt, it is important to seek the right level of care to meet their needs. Depending on their condition, you may need to visit an emergency department or an urgent care facility. But which is best? We’re here to help you make the correct choice.

Selecting the right level of care can:

  • Provide your child with the appropriate level of care.
  • Allow them to be treated as quickly as possible.
  • Be more cost effective.

Learn which conditions call for a trip to the ER and which are better suited for an urgent care facility.

When to visit the emergency room

Emergency rooms are designed to provide fast, lifesaving care. While your child’s condition could be urgent in nature, it may not always meet the medical criteria for an emergency room visit. Here are signs you should go immediately to the ER or call 911:

  • Your child has a life-threatening illness or injury (see list below).
  • Your child’s symptoms come on suddenly and fast.
  • You think your child may need rapid or advanced treatment, like surgery.

Here are some of the top reasons to visit the ER or call 911:

  • Any change in behavior following loss of consciousness, especially after a head injury
  • Bleeding you can’t stop
  • Blue or purple skin or lips
  • Burns or smoke inhalation
  • Choking
  • Electric shocks
  • Losing consciousness
  • Loose or knocked out teeth or other injuries to the mouth or face
  • Near drowning
  • Poisoning (call the Poison Control Center first at 1-800-222-1222)
  • Seizures
  • Steadily decreasing responsiveness
  • Sudden impact injuries such as from a car or bicycle accident, or falls from heights
  • Trouble breathing

Children’s Health has the only pediatric Level I ER/Trauma Program in the North Texas and all our doctors are specially trained in treating children. Learn why it is important to choose a pediatric emergency department.

When to visit urgent care

It is usually best to take your child to an urgent care center if:

  • Your child has a non-life-threatening condition (see the list below).
  • Your child’s symptoms are gradual, not sudden.
  • Your child’s primary care physician is not available, such as at night or on the weekend.

Here are some common reasons to visit urgent care:

  • Coughs, colds, and sore throats
  • Minor cuts
  • Minor earaches
  • Headaches
  • Pinkeye
  • Sunburn

Learn more

When needed, visit the Children’s Health ER closest to you:

Children’s Medical Center, Dallas
1935 Medical District Drive
Dallas, TX 75235

Children’s Medical Center, Plano
7601 Preston Road
Plano, TX 75024

We deliver the best emergency care to your child when they need it most.

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