When to Go to the ER vs. Urgent Care

Should you hightail it to the local walk-in center or brave the emergency room?
By Holly Pevzner
Jul 28, 2015



Jul 28, 2015

Accidents or illnesses don’t always strike during regular hours. While it’s smart to reach out to the doctor on call at your pediatrician’s office first, sometimes you’re faced with the quandary: Should I hightail it to the local walk-in center or brave the emergency room? We asked Therese L. Canares, M.D., at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for her expert take:

If Your Child Has a Fever

To to the ER if: Your baby is younger than 2 months old and has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher.

Go to urgent care if: The fever in an older kid is accompanied by cold symptoms and he’s acting normally.

If Your Child Has a Bad Fall

To to the ER if: You suspect a broken bone or your kiddo appears to pass out or lose consciousness (even for a few seconds).

Go to urgent care if: You think it’s a sprain or similar injury.

If Your Child Has a Deep Cut

To to the ER if: The cut is on the face and it looks as if it needs stitches.

Go to urgent care if: Minor stitches are required elsewhere, like the scalp or an arm or a leg. (At most urgent care centers, a parent is called upon to help hold a child still. Not up for that? Go to the ER.)

If Your Child Has Ear Pain

To to the ER if: There’s a loss of hearing.

Go to urgent care if: You believe your kid has an ear infection or swimmer’s ear.

If Your Child Has a Bee Sting

To to the ER if: Your child has two or more symptoms as a result of the sting (such as hives plus throat swelling or vomiting plus dizziness).

Go to urgent care if: No need — you can treat this at home! Offer Benadryl and/or hydrocortisone cream for hives or discomfort.

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