Published on in Health Tip of the Week
Your child has an earache and you’re leaving for vacation tomorrow. Or she sprained an ankle running the bases during softball practice.
You need help, and your pediatrician’s office is closed.
When you don’t think you need the ED, but you don’t want to wait for the pediatrician’s office to open, call your child’s doctor and ask if urgent care — specifically pediatric urgent care — is the solution. These facilities treat your child when you need it — on evenings and weekends — and how you need it — with consideration for your child’s specific needs.
Benefits of pediatric urgent care
It’s important to make the distinction between a typical urgent care center, which sees patients of all ages — including adults — and a pediatric urgent care center. The staff of a pediatric facility — like those operated by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Abington, PA, Chalfont, PA, Glen Mills, PA, King of Prussia, PA, Haverford, PA — are uniquely skilled in the assessment of a sick or injured child.
Assessment is critical in all healthcare, but particularly in pediatrics where it can be difficult for children to describe their symptoms. It’s your job as a parent to recognize when something isn’t right and take action. It’s the provider’s job to answer the question, “How sick is this child?” This assessment, also called triage, is very different for children than it is for adults. For a young child, it can be a thin line between “a little sick” and “dangerously ill.”
The nurses and doctors at CHOP’s pediatric Urgent Care Centers understand that children are not small adults. That’s because they’ve received pediatric training.
Can pediatric urgent care replace my pediatrician?
No. Your children should always stay up to date with their regular wellness visits, and if they are sick during normal office hours, your pediatrician — who knows your child and family best — should be your first choice. But when the office is closed, your child’s doctor will know that pediatric urgent care is a great option. And CHOP’s pediatric Urgent Care Centers promptly communicate all of the important information from the visit to your child’s doctor.
When is a pediatric urgent care center the right choice?
If you’re able, consult with your child’s pediatrician to determine if urgent care is the right choice for your child's illness or injury. The teams at CHOP’s Urgent Care Centers are equipped to manage many conditions including:
- Allergic reactions
- Broken bones requiring splinting (pediatric radiologist available to read X-rays while you wait)
- Coughs, colds and sore throats
- Cuts or minor gashes
- Fever in babies older than 2 months
- Minor burns
- Minor head injuries
- Removal of ticks, splinters, hooks and other sharp objects
- Skin abscesses (small pockets of pus that are usually caused by infection)
- Sports injuries
- Urinary tract infections
Unfortunately, sometimes you will be faced with a true emergency and need to take your child to an emergency department (ER) instead of urgent care. In these situations go to the closest ER or call 911:
- Life-threatening injury or illness requiring immediate attention
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever in infants younger than 2 months
If you have mild symptoms or need a COVID-19 test, please use community testing resources instead of going to the ER. That helps free us up to care for serious medical emergencies. Schedule at a CHOP COVID testing site here.
Stay in Touch
Are you looking for advice to keep your child healthy and happy? Do you have questions about common childhood illnesses and injuries? Subscribe to our Health Tips newsletter to receive health and wellness tips from the pediatric experts at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, straight to your inbox. Read some recent tips.