Sometimes you'll know instantly if your child needs quick medical care. Other times,
it's hard to know if an injury or illness needs the attention of a health care provider
— and, if it does, whether that means a trip to the ER, a call to your doctor,
or a visit to the nearest urgent care center. These guidelines can help.
When to Call 911
For a serious emergency, call 911. Some situations are so serious that you need
the help of trained medical personnel on the way to the hospital.
An ER (emergency room)
— also called an emergency department (ED) — can handle a wide variety
of serious problems. They are equipped to handle life-threatening illnesses and injuries
at any time of the day or night.
Calling your child's regular provider for these kinds of concerns allows for a
continuity of care (always seeing a provider who knows you and your child).
But sometimes it's not practical to get to your provider's office or it's after
hours and the office is not open. That's when you might think about getting medical
care at an urgent care center or through telemedicine. (It's a good idea to talk with
your child's health care provider about these options before you need to use them.)
What Can Be Treated at an Urgent Care Center?
Urgent care centers can evaluate and treat the same problems as your regular health
care provider. These centers also can provide services like X-rays, stitches,
Another way a child can be seen for many minor injuries and illnesses is through
a "visit" to a health provider using your phone or computer. This is called telemedicine
or telehealth. Through an app on your phone, you can talk to a provider face-to-face
— and the provider can see you and your child. Your regular health care provider
or health system may provide telemedicine services.
Whether your child is treated at an urgent care center or through a telemedicine
visit, it's a good idea to follow up with your primary care provider after the visit.
By doing this you can be sure your provider has the most up-to-date information about
your child and can continue any needed follow-up care.