Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care Center

Published on in Health Tip of the Week

Patient with Doctor in the Hospital Your child has a bad cold that won’t go away. She sprained her ankle. He’s having an asthma attack. Head to the emergency room? Not necessarily.

An urgent care center can handle many of these and other conditions — conditions you might think are better suited for an emergency room. But emergency rooms are designed to provide fast, life-saving care. While you may feel the urgency of all of your child’s issues, they may not always meet the medical criteria for an emergency room visit.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has two pediatric urgent care centers — one in Bucks County, PA and one in King of Prussia, PA — both staffed by a dedicated team of board-certified physicians and nurses with special training in pediatrics.

So when should you head to an urgent care location? The teams at CHOP’s locations are equipped to manage many conditions including:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Broken bones
  • Coughs, colds and sore throats
  • Cuts or minor gashes
  • Dehydration
  • Earaches
  • Fever in babies older than 2 months
  • Foreign objects in the ear or the nose
  • Headaches
  • Minor burns
  • Minor head injuries
  • Pinkeye
  • Rashes
  • Removal of ticks, splinters, hooks and other sharp objects
  • Skin abscesses (small pockets of pus that are usually caused by infection)
  • Sports injuries
  • Sunburn
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Unfortunately, sometimes you will be faced with a true emergency and need to take your child to the emergency room. Here are some of the top reasons to visit the ER:

  • Poisoning
  • Burns or smoke inhalation
  • Choking
  • Sudden impact injuries such as from a car or bicycle accident, or falls from heights
  • Near drowning
  • Electric shocks
  • Trouble breathing
  • Blue or purple skin or lips
  • Bleeding that you can’t stop
  • Seizures
  • Losing consciousness
  • Any change in behavior following loss of consciousness, especially after a head injury, including vomiting, disorientation and headache
  • Loose or knocked out teeth or other injuries to the mouth or face
  • Steadily decreasing responsiveness