Jun 20, 2017, 1:38:06 PM CDT Aug 24, 2021, 2:28:14 PM CDT

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

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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 take your child to an emergency room or urgent care facility. Other times, you may be able to treat them at home or even opt to see a provider through virtual visit. But as a parent, how do you know which is best? We're here to help you make the correct choice.

Selecting the right level of care can:

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

Learn which conditions call for a trip to the ER, which are better suited for an urgent care facility and when you may opt for a virtual visit with a provider.

COVID-19 Information: It’s important to know that you do not need to bring your child to the ER if they were exposed to COVID-19 but have no or mild symptoms. The ER is designed for emergency, lifesaving care. If your child has been exposed to COVID-19, your child’s primary care provider can best advise you. If your child’s primary care office is closed or not available and your child is showing non-life-threatening symptoms, you can take them to an urgent care center. Learn more about what to do if your child is exposed to COVID-19.

When to take a child to 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 take a child to 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 (losing consciousness, muscle spasms, drooling or foaming at mouth, falling)
  • Steadily decreasing responsiveness
  • Sudden impact injuries such as from a car or bicycle accident, or falls from heights
  • Trouble breathing, including asthma that is not improving with home treatments

Children's Health℠ has the only pediatric Level I ER/Trauma Program in 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 take a child to 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 take your child to urgent care:

  • Allergies
  • Common colds
  • Coughs
  • Cuts/wounds requiring stitches
  • Dehydration
  • Ear, nose and throat infections
  • Fevers
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Mild burns
  • Possible fracture or injury
  • Rashes
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin infections

Before you take your child to an urgent care location, check to make sure they see children of all ages. Children's Health PM Urgent Care offers care 365 days a year for non-life-threatening conditions in newborn babies through college-age patients.

When can you use a virtual visit for a child?

With the use of video technology, your child may be able to be treated by a medical provider right in the comfort of your own home. Virtual visits, or video visits conducted via smartphones, tablets or computers, are an easily accessible option when you need quick medical care for your child.

Common health conditions in children that can be treated using virtual visits include:

  • Allergies
  • Common colds
  • Ear, nose and throat infections
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Mild burns
  • Minor cuts
  • Rashes
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin infections

Learn more about Virtual Visit, brought to you by Children's Health Virtual Care, including how it works and frequently asked questions.

Learn more

With two pediatric emergency rooms, pediatric urgent care locations around the metroplex and high-quality virtual care, Children's Health is nearby and ready to help when you need it most.

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