Urgent care or the emergency room?

How to know which one is best for your child

As a parent, you have a pretty good idea when your child has an illness or injury that needs more than a hug and an over-the-counter medication. When you can’t see your pediatrician–maybe it’s the weekend or after office hours–you may think your only option for help is a hospital emergency department.

That is the best place to take your child if he or she is truly having a medical emergency. However, for non-emergency situations you do have another choice: an urgent care center. You may be able to see a doctor more quickly–and for less money–at an urgent care center than at a hospital.

So how do you know which is the best place to take your child?

Consider urgent care for things such as:

• A cold or cough that doesn’t get better in several days or a cold that gets worse and is accompanied by a fever

• A minor cut that might need stitches

• A rash, especially with fever

• A bout of vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than a few hours

• A severe sore throat or a problem swallowing

• A minor bone fracture

• An insect or animal bite

But you’ll want to call 911 or go to the emergency department if your child has signs of a medical emergency. Those include:

• Any significant change in behavior, such as being confused, delirious or excessively sleepy or becoming increasingly less responsive or alert

• A severe headache or vomiting, especially after a head injury

• Uncontrolled bleeding

• Problems breathing

• Increasing pain or severe, persistent pain

• Severe or persistent diarrhea

Also seek emergency help if your child is unconscious.

Good things to know

Urgent care centers don’t require an appointment. Most have evening and some weekend hours, but they aren’t open 24 hours a day. Many of them offer services like x-rays, lab tests and medications.

Hospital emergency departments are open 24/7. They are staffed and equipped to handle any medical emergency.

Healthy Now offers urgent care in two convenient locations in Yakima: Terrace Heights and Creekside. Walk ins are welcome or you can schedule your appointment online at healthynowclinic.com/

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Emergency Physicians; National Association for Ambulatory Care

One thought on “Urgent care or the emergency room?

  1. That’s a great point you make about how you can probably see a doctor more quickly – and for less money – at an urgent care center. I’ve heard that urgent care center’s typically only have a wait time of about a half hour. That’s compared to an ER’s wait time of more than a couple hours! I’ll have to remember this option the next time my little one needs medical help!

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