When is the Emergency Room Best?

Family care providers

We’ve all been there. It’s 6:00 on a Friday afternoon, and just when you’re getting settled in for the weekend, you notice that your child has a fever. It’s a temperature higher than you’re comfortable with, but you know you won’t be able to get them in to your regular family care providers until Monday (at the earliest). Do you take them to an after hours urgent care facility? Do you bypass that and go straight to emergency walk in clinic? Sometimes emergency walk in clinics are best equipped to give your child the care they need, and sometimes urgent care, or your regular family care physicians is the best place for your child.

We are lucky to have so many great options at our finger tips for getting medical care. However, when you’re worried for your child’s well-being, knowing whether to take them to your family health clinic, or an urgent care clinic, or an emergency walk in clinic can be difficult. We’ve put together a quick overview of when to take your child to your regular doctor, when urgent care is best, and when an emergency walk in clinic is best equipped to meet their needs:

  • When your pediatrician is the best choices.
    It is true that the urgent care or emergency room can treat almost any illness that might arise for your child, there are some occasions that taking them to your regular pediatrician is best. In fact, for some illnesses, the medical practitioner who treats them at urgent care or emergency room will provide the care they need for the symptoms they are experiencing (such as a breathing treatment or a round of antibiotics), and give you instructions to follow-up with their pediatrician when you can.


    Your pediatrician has the best understanding of your child’s medical history and is best equipped to work with your child on an ongoing basis to develop an ongoing medical plan to improve their health. See your pediatrician if the medical need you have involves:
    • Changing the medication or medical treatment that they receive on an ongoing basis.

    • Questions about their growth and development. Your pediatrician can gauge how your child is developing, compared to the standard, and the level they were at during previous visits.

    • Request referrals to a specialist. Your pediatrician and the specialist will work together to develop the best plan of action for your child.
  • When urgent care is the best choice.

    By definition, urgent care is designed for medical needs that require attention in less then 24 hours, but are not life-threatening emergencies. However, urgent care clinics are really equipped to provide much of the care that a doctor’s office can offer, such as writing prescriptions or providing on-site treatment. Additionally, they can offer urgent services like providing lab work, fracture care, and even STD testing if needed. The advantage to going to urgent care include:
    • You can care on a walk in basis rather than having to wait until sometime next week when your doctor can see you. In fact, most urgent care offices are open later hours and on weekends, to accommodate your work schedule.
    • Many non-emergency services that aren’t available at your doctors are offered at urgent care.
    • The waiting times and the cost of care at urgent care are typically better than you’d receive at the emergency room. Many emergency rooms work in conjunction with a hospital, making you subject to hospital surcharges. They’re obviously worth the cost if you need to be in the hospital, but not so much if you just need a prescription for pink eye.
  • When to go straight to emergency room.

    The emergency room has one job, and it does it very well. To treat life-threatening medical needs. If you or the patient are experiencing any of the following issues, you should go straight to emergency room:
    • Bleeding profusely (especially if the blood flow is pulsing).
    • Severe head or neck injury.
    • Heart attack or stroke symptoms.
    • Loss of consciousness.
    • Struggling to get enough air to breath.
    • Compound fracture, where the bone is protruding from the skin.

    In a medical emergency, every minute counts. Going straight to the emergency room ensures that the patient gets the help they need, as fast as possible. Additionally, the ER is equipped with ambulances to get you the care you need even faster.

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