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What's too urgent for urgent care?

  • Category: Ask the Expert
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Brittany Garcia

What’s too urgent for urgent care?

It’s happened to us all -- and inevitably in the evening or middle of the night. Your child is sick. Do you know what to do? Should you wait it out until morning when you can call the pediatrician or do you rush them to the closest Emergency Room? Here are some guidelines from emergency physician Michael Mirhadi, MD of Marshall.

Emergency Room

It’s hard to know what an emergency is and what can wait. Here are a few indications that a trip to the ER is necessary:

  • Fainting, loss of consciousness, seizure
  • Fever in a newborn
  • Rapid or difficulty breathing
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision
  • Change in behavior, such as confusion or difficulty walking
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or vomiting blood
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea or blood in stools
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea with dry lips or mouth and/or decreased urination
  • Profuse bleeding or bleeding that won't stop with direct pressure after 15 minutes
  • A gaping wound with edges that don't come together
  • Problems with movement or sensation after an injury
  • A stiff neck associated with fever or headache
  • Accidents involving pedestrians or bicycles and cars
  • A red/purple rash that doesn't disappear when brief fingertip pressure is applied to the skin
  • A bulging or sunken fontanel (soft spot) in infants
  • Sudden severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Falls from any significant height
  • Mental health concerns

Urgent Care

Urgent care is a great alternative to the ER if your pediatrician is unavailable. If you can’t make an appointment within a day or two for the following symptoms, head to a nearby urgent care center:

  • Fever accompanied by cold symptoms and you suspect it may be the flu.
  • Possible ear infection; symptoms include drainage from the ear, ear ache and pulling on the ears.
  • Sore throat with or without white patches on the tonsils, a possible sign of strep infection.
  • Possible pink eye, (red, inflamed eyes with or without discharge).
  • A few episodes of vomiting or diarrhea (without blood in the stool) but has no belly pain or signs of dehydration.

“Generally speaking,” says Mirhadi, “if your child is able to walk, talk, interact and play, chances are whatever she or he has is not an emergency and you should make an appointment with your pediatrician.” But trust your gut, if you feel something can’t wait until the next available appointment, visit urgent care or the emergency room.