When parents decide to have kids, they take on a number of likely assumptions with that. They assume their time will be infringed upon, at least to some degree. They assume their budget will have some sort of redistribution that takes place. They understand they have a certain amount of responsibility for the child until they reach an age they can care for themselves. Along with these assumptions comes the prediction that, at some point, their child will have an injury or ailment. For some children, this occurrence is frequent. The real question many parents have is when and where to seek medical attention for these issues. With urgent care costing around 1/10th the price of an emergency room visit, according to a study by Cigna, the draw to urgent care is growing, but is it what is best? The guide below will help determine which path you may take for your family.
Cough– A cough that has lingered for days or a week is more than a minor annoyance. Your child may need to be evaluated by a doctor or nurse practitioner to rule out a few issues or to receive medicine to provide some relief. This is a perfect scenario to visit the urgent care, tests can be run in the office and help can be given. Avoiding the ER will minimize exposure to additional illness and will allow for follow up as needed.
Fever– The recommendation for a higher fever, anything over 104 degrees, would be to go to the ER. The urgent care can assist with fevers lower than that. For a higher fever a medical team would often pursue intravenous fluids and your child may be experiencing seizures which the ER has more experience caring for.
Stomach Ache– Many stomach issues can be assisted in the urgent care. The exception to this would be a pain that originates or migrates to the lower right side. An appendix that bursts will need hospital assistance and time is valuable in these cases.
Deep Cuts- Basic lacerations can be mended in the urgent care setting. However, if the cut is so deep you believe tendons may be involved or your child is having difficulty contracting impacted muscles, go ahead and take them to the ER. The hospital may have to intervene to provide the level of care they need.
Broken Bones- This depends on the severity. Many urgent care clinics have x-ray machines and the ability to set bones. If the bone is protruding from skin, then an ER is needed to give the proper care.
Bump on the Head– When children fall and hit their head, it can be worrisome for parents, especially when a large bump appears. If the child begins exhibiting symptoms like vomiting, complaints of pain, or is acting disoriented, it is time to seek medical attention. Because a concussion or other head injury could need additional tests or monitoring for 24 hours, the recommendation is to go directly to an ER or hospital, rather than an urgent care.
Swallowing Something They Shouldn’t– This scenario is actually two fold. Depending on the item, you may be sending them to two different places. A hazardous item like cleaning chemicals, a battery, or something similar may warrant an immediate call to 911 to lean on their expertise. For something like a rock or tiny lego, a visit to the urgent care will allow for x-rays and a follow up to make sure all is well.
Something in the Ear– No matter if you can see the object or not, when the inner ear is involved, the suggestion would be to take your child to the ER. There is a lot of damage that could take place and any removal will need to be done with expert care and precision. The hospital will have more equipment and viewing devices to assist in checking your child and their hearing.
Split Something Open– There are certain parts of the body, the lip, eyebrow, and chin for example, that split vastly different from the rest of the body. These gaping wounds can be a source of panic for children and their care takers. Depending on the severity of the cut, you may or may not be best suited for Urgent Care. A deeper cut, possibly needing plastic surgery and anesthetics, should divert to the ER.
If your child is under the age of two months, a visit to a hospital, is a better bet. Many urgent care centers would differ most cases to their expertise. Dr. Bruni, a Medical and Educational Liaison at St. Joseph Hospital and City MD Urgent Care in New York, offers this, “Children of that age present their illnesses differently and give very different signs to underlying problems. You need to be in a place that has a full staff on hand for a child that age.” Additionally, it is helpful to be prepared ahead of time and know the hours and locations of an urgent care clinic nearby. Integrity Urgent Care has several locations to provide the community with the best possible care and is open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. Whenever in doubt, seek medical care, and Integrity can help with a lot of it.