Where Should You Take Your Child: Urgent Care or the Pediatrician?
When your child is sick, anxiety is usually a given. And depending on the severity of symptoms, time of day, and day of the week, parents often wonder if it is appropriate to take their child to 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 it isn’t always the best choice for your family. Find out how to know where to go.
When to Go to Urgent Care as Recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
According to the AAP, urgent care centers may be a reasonable option when care is needed and your child’s pediatrician isn’t available. They recommend that the first thing a parent or caregiver should do is call the pediatrician or after-hours phone number. During the call, the child’s symptoms should be discussed with the nurse or pediatric provider. Based on the information provided, recommendations will be given for the 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 children of this age.
Potential Limitations in Expertise at Urgent Care
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. Know before you go.
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
- High fever
- Experiences a seizure
- Has heavy, fast, or labored breathing
- Loses motion in an injured arm or leg
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 six days a week in four 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.