After-Hours Medical Care: Where To Take Your Sick Child

When it comes to caring for a sick child, you may become panicked at his or her first sign of distress or discomfort. Knowing where to take your child for medical care when your pediatrician's office is not open is important for giving your child the quality of care he or she needs and deserves. Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to determine if you should take your child to the emergency room, pediatric urgent care center, or wait to see your primary pediatrician.

Where Is Your Pediatrician On Staff?

If your pediatrician is on-staff at your local pediatric urgent care center, you may want to treat the center as an extension of your child's pediatrician's office. You get to work with a team of doctors you already know and trust, and you get the convenience of having your child seen for sniffles, cuts, and scrapes without a wait in the emergency room. Be sure that your insurance plan covers the urgent care center, and be aware of the cost of co-pays for urgent care visits. In some cases, your co-pay may be significantly more, and you may want to wait until your pediatrician's office is open if your child is not having a medical emergency.

What Are The Symptoms?

Urgent care facilities can handle a number of different illnesses and accidents, but it's important to know their limitations. Some can provide X-rays and casts for broken bones, while others have the equipment to perform minor medical procedures. Knowing your child's symptoms can help you to determine where he or she should go for care. For example, if your child shows signs that he or she sprained an ankle or is complaining of a moderate stomach ache, an urgent care facility might be the right choice. However, if that same ankle appears to be broken and your child can't walk, or if he or she is experiencing sharp, severe stomach pains in a localized area, an emergency room may be better equipped to provide care.

Where Is Your Child Most Comfortable?

One advantage that pediatric urgent care centers have over emergency rooms and other general medical facilities is that they are geared toward children. The exam rooms typically feature child-sized furniture, bright decorations, and comfortable settings, and the waiting rooms often have plenty of toys and books to help keep your little ones occupied while they wait. Your children may simply have a more positive experience when going to a pediatric urgent care center as opposed to an emergency room.

Talk to your pediatrician about the different urgent care centers in your area to find the ones with the best reputations, and ask him or her for guidance to help you know when your child needs to go to the urgent care facility.