Urgent Care or ER: Where Should You Take Your Child for That Boo-Boo

*Remember to always consult a professional before making a medical decision for you or your family.

Your child falls and cuts their knee, and it’s bleeding badly. Just one look tells you they’ll need stitches, but are you supposed to take them to the emergency room or urgent care? Many parents and even grown adults are confused whether they should go to urgent care or just head straight for the hospital.

It’s important to know how urgent care and the emergency room differ because every moment is precious when it comes to your child’s life. Let’s take a look at the difference between each one, including pediatric facilities, and when you should consider them for your child.

Urgent Care

Urgent care centers are designed to provide swift treatment for a variety of injuries and illness. Some are even open 24-hours a day so people have access to medical services after-hours. This can be great because they spare you the cost and time of sitting in the ER, which will always be busier.

The urgent care center can treat patients of all ages, and the average wait time is 30 minutes. If your child has a cut or scrape, or you suspect a minor fracture or sprain, then urgent care can provide them with x-rays, splints and casts and other necessary treatment.

Urgent care can also provide medication for ear infections and other illnesses. Sometimes, when your child’s pediatrician isn’t available, urgent care can provide the same level of health care and give them relief until they can see their primary later.

Emergency Room

The emergency room should only be used in events that mandate immediate treatment. If your baby has a high fever, for example, or your child loses consciousness for any period of time after an injury or sickness, then they need to be taken straight to the ER.

ERs can provide life-saving specialized care because they are connected to hospitals that have their own units and equipment. If your child ever has severe bleeding, a broken bone (with broken skin), head trauma, difficulty breathing or a loss of vision, you should immediately contact emergency services via 911.

Taking an ambulance in emergency services can ensure that your child is seen immediately rather than waiting in traffic and in the waiting room. If your child is ill, then a trip to a hospital could introduce them to more germs. Urgent care may be able to give them treatment and medication without putting them at a higher risk.

When You Should Absolutely Go to the ER

  • Your infant under 2-months-old has a fever of or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • You suspect a broken bone, especially if there is swelling or the bone appears misaligned
  • Your child has a seizure
  • Your child is breathing heavily, gasping for air and/or can only speak a few words before taking a breath
  • Your child has a gaping cut on their face

General cold symptoms, ear infections and even strep throat can be first treated by a physician at an urgent care clinic. You should learn as much as you can about your child’s health, including warning signs of a childhood medical emergency, so you’re able to make the best decision in a moment’s notice.

*The Baby Spot is an free information site that does not claim to be experts in medical advice. If you have an emergency, seek medical help immediately.