The Pediatrician or Urgent Care? Choosing the Right Care at the Right Moment
A sick or injured child can create considerable anxiety for even the most experienced parents. Depending on the severity of symptoms, time of day or day of the week, parents often find themselves wondering if they should take their child to the urgent care or the pediatrician. The walk-in clinic model of urgent care centers can be an attractive option when illness presents in the wee hours of the evening. But when is it the best choice for your family? Find out here.
American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations for Urgent Care Centers
Urgent care centers may be a reasonable option when care is needed and your child’s pediatrician is not available. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the first step a parent or caregiver takes is to call the pediatrician or after hours number. Discuss your child’s symptoms with the nurse or pediatric provider. Based on the information they are provided, they will provide recommendations for next steps.
For children under the age of two, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend retail-based centers (often found in pharmacies, supermarkets, and large retail centers) for providing pediatric care due to the limited pediatric experience in treating this age.
Potential Limitations in Expertise
Most providers who work in urgent care centers do not specialize in pediatrics and many are uncomfortable treating infants and young children for anything more than routine illnesses. If your child presents with a condition that is outside their scope of practice, they will triage them to the emergency department for further evaluation and treatment. Before heading to an urgent care center, call ahead to ensure they can appropriately treat your child.
Urgent care centers provide a safe and effective option but are not a replacement for the pediatric provider or emergency department. The best place for children to receive medical care remains with the pediatrician. A child’s pediatrician should be a trusted partner in their care. They have direct knowledge of your child’s medical history, which is critical when making healthcare decisions.
When to Go Directly to the Emergency Department
A general rule of thumb for emergencies is that if a child can walk, talk, play or otherwise engage with you, they are most likely not in need of emergency care.
Go to the Emergency Department if your child:
- Hits their head and loses consciousness
- Has a seizure
- Has heavy, fast, or labored breathing
Rainbow Pediatrics is committed to providing southeastern North Carolina with the highest quality pediatric care. We are pleased to offer direct access to an expert pediatric team seven days a week in three convenient locations including Fayetteville, Hope Mills, and Raeford. If you are still unsure where to take your child in the event of an illness or injury, call our office.