Children’s emergency room

Urgent Care Vs Emergency Room Vs Doctor’s Office

When it comes to colds, infections, broken bones and more, where should you go for your child’s medical care? You know the basics…routine check-ups are done at your child’s pediatrician’s office, and with anything life threatening you take them to the emergency room. But what about everything in between? In this blog, we’ll try to dispel some of the confusion that parents face when trying to decide between the pediatrician’s office, an urgent care clinic, and the emergency room.




Well-child visits are routine, generally yearly or every few months, where your child is weighed, measured, and checked for overall general health. Here you can bring up any medical, behavioral, or developmental concerns you may have, and if warranted, your child’s doctor can give you a referral to a specialist. Vaccines are also given at well-child visits. These are always done at your pediatrician’s office. Any non-urgent illnesses should also be taken care of here, as long as your child can be seen in a timely manner. 


Your child’s pediatrician’s office should be thought of as the main hub for most of their care. Your child’s pediatrician has their full medical history, and they have probably known your child for a long time. In case of any health issues, they are the best informed when it comes to advising you on what steps to take next. 


Examples of when to go to the pediatrician: school physicals, well-child visits, to fulfill any missing vaccines, if your child has a fever, infection or non-urgent illness (and can be seen that day), if you have a general concern about your child’s health such as mild to moderate stomach aches or headaches, or if you’re concerned about them meeting certain milestones.


Pediatric urgent care


Urgent care, sometimes referred to as an immediate care center, is often thought of as a middle ground between the pediatrician’s office and the emergency room. While that’s mostly true, there are some exceptions. So, when should you opt for urgent care? Say your child has a sudden illness that is not quite an emergency, yet you’d like them seen as soon as possible. Maybe they’re in pain that may require them to receive medication like antibiotics, or maybe they need a doctor’s note in order to return to school the next day. If your child’s pediatrician can not see them that day or can’t see them until late in the day, urgent care may be a better option for you. Also, many urgent care facilities are open late. Say your child gets an ear infection at 8:30 p.m., your best bet might be to take them to urgent care. A pediatric urgent care is designed to complement your pediatrician’s services and not replace them.


When available, always opt for a pediatric urgent care over a regular urgent care clinic. No one understands kids like those who work with them day in and day out, and many pediatric urgent care facilities hire medical staff that have been specifically trained in working with children. Remember, children are not little adults! 


Examples of when to go to urgent care: your child has fallen hard and you think they might have a sprain or a broken bone, your child has a deep wound that might require stitches, your child has an allergic reaction, or if your child has a high fever, infection or other illness and their pediatrician is unable to see them in a timely manner. Pediatric urgent cares are often equipped to manage broken bones and check for pneumonia with x-ray services on site, can provide closure of wounds with sutures or glue, infuse IV fluids for dehydration, and even remove foreign bodies from skin, ears, and noses. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to call ahead to see if your local pediatric urgent care can manage your child’s medical needs.  


Emergency room


The emergency room should always be your last resort and should only be used for medical emergencies. Emergency rooms are full of sick people and carry the risk of your child being exposed to other illnesses. Also, emergency rooms treat a lot of people, so odds are you’ll end up waiting a very long time for care.


Examples of when to go to the emergency room: if your child is unconscious, if your child is in a bad accident, or if your child has an urgent illness, trouble breathing, possible severe broken bone, or a large or deep wound, and when urgent care is closed.


When in doubt, remember you can always call your pediatrician’s office to ask. Most have an after hours call center or nurse service that can advise you, or in some cases, get you in touch with your child’s pediatrician if needed.