Pediatric ED or Urgent Care: How to know what’s best for your child

There’s often nothing more nerve racking to a parent than dealing with a sick or injured child, especially when it happens after the pediatrician’s office closes. Who do you call? Where should you go? What’s open? These are key questions that race through your mind.

One of the best ways to prepare for these unexpected situations is to know your options in advance. When you’re aware of what’s available in your area and how to best utilize each, it eliminates some of the stress felt in the moment. You can then focus your attention on identifying what’s wrong and deciding on the best place to take your child to get the help they need.

At Anne Arundel Medical Center, we’re fortunate to have a full-service Pediatric Emergency Department, open 24-7 and supported by a range of specialty services and child-life specialists. Our dedicated team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers are trained specifically to treat children, including infants.

But the emergency department isn’t always the right place to take your child. And it can be difficult to know when the emergency department is right and when urgent care is best. Here’s a quick guide on where to take your child based on their symptoms:

Pediatric Emergency Department

  • Any infant under three months who has a rectal temperature of 100.4˚ or higher
  • Bleeding that can’t be stopped
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness
  • Injury that includes a deformity (such as a broken bone pushing through the skin)
  • Mental health crisis
  • Poisoning
  • Seizures
  • Severe asthma attacks
  • Severe cuts
  • Signs of dehydration (dry lips and mouth, absence of urination, lethargy and confusion)
  • Trouble breathing

Urgent Care Center

  • Bumps, minor scrapes and cuts
  • Cough and sore throat
  • Flu and cold symptoms
  • Low-grade fevers, for children over three months old
  • Minor burns
  • Minor earaches
  • Mild vomiting and diarrhea
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes
  • Sunburn
  • Upset stomach

Please remember, these are guidelines. If at any point you believe your child has a life threatening emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Originally published Jan. 22, 2018. Last updated Jan. 7, 2020.

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