Published onHealth 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 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, and King of Prussia, 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. If it's after hours, call your pediatrician's office to speak with an after-hours nurse. If care can't wait until the office reopens, the teams at CHOP’s Urgent Care Centers are equipped to manage many conditions. Check out this list with more information to help you determine the best place to seek care, and what types of ailments can be handled at Urgent Care.
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:
- Any severe or life-threatening injury or illness requiring immediate attention (including severe asthma attacks or severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis))
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever over 100.4 degrees in children younger than 2 months
- Unconsciousness followed by abnormal behavior
- Swallowed button battery
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.
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.