top of page

Pediatrician, Emergency Room, or Urgent Care? How to Know Where To Go

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Choosing the Right Place for Your Sick Child

As a parent trying to do the best for your child, it can be tough to always know where is the best place to take your child when they're sick and how urgent or emergent their symptoms are. The COVID pandemic has made these decisions even harder. So let's review some suggestions for how to make the right choice for your child.



It is important for your child to always have a pediatrician or other primary care doctor/provider. It is also important for your child’s pediatrician to get to know you and your child, and for you and your child to get to know your pediatrician.


  • Regular checkups and preventive care (and school forms)

  • Routine shots/vaccines

  • Help with chronic illnesses such as asthma and allergies

  • Cough, sore throat, rashes, ear pain, vomiting, diarrhea, scrapes, sprains, constipation, pain with urination, aches and pains, and other mild illnesses

  • Fever in a child older than 2 months

Your child’s pediatrician will:

  • Keep track of your child’s general health

  • Provide care to keep your child from getting sick (preventive care)

  • Assess and treat your child when sick

  • Learn your child’s medical history

  • Give your child better care than the ER/emergency room in many instances because he/she knows more about your child

  • Help you to understand your child’s illnesses

  • Recommend bloodwork and/or imaging studies if deemed necessary

  • Refer your child to specialist(s) when needed

  • Refer you and your child to urgent care or the ER if necessary

Many pediatricians will have same-day or next-day appointments and a 24-hour call line so that you can have your child seen quickly and/or you can talk to your pediatrician for emergencies, even outside of normal office hours. Talking to your pediatrician first will sometimes eliminate feeling like you have to rush your child to the emergency room or to urgent care. Or it can help you decide if you do, in fact, need to take your child to the emergency room or urgent care and which one may be more appropriate.


You should consider taking your child to an urgent care facility for:

  • Mild-moderate accidents or injuries (for example, possible broken bones or small cuts that may need glue repair or stitches, especially in older children)

  • If your child needs to be seen right away -AND- your pediatrician cannot see them within 24-48 hours

If you are not sure if your child needs to go to urgent care, call your child's pediatrician and they can help you determine if your child should be seen at urgent care.


You should take your child to the emergency room if your child is experiencing:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Seizures

  • Burns

  • Severe accidents or injuries (for example, likely or obviously broken bones or large cuts that may need stitches, especially in younger children)

  • Fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher) in a child less than 2 months old (for a great video on fever in children, visit

If you are not sure if your child needs to go to the ER, call your child's pediatrician or their after-hours emergencies line and they will be able to help you determine if your child needs emergency room care or not.

WHY NOT TO GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM (unless absolutely necessary*)

  • The ER doctor/provider doesn’t know your child or have access to your child’s records

  • You may not be seen quickly (the sickest children will be seen first)

  • Your child may be exposed to other really sick children in the ER waiting room (a special consideration given the COVID pandemic)

*Dial 911 or take your child directly to the Emergency Room if you think your child’s life is in danger

Making the decision of where to take your child when they are sick is not always easy. At the end of the day, go with your instincts but having a good pediatrician can help make these questions easier for you.

If your child does not currently have a pediatrician, invest time in finding a great pediatrician for your child. Ask your friends with children for recommendations and look for qualities in your pediatrician and office policies that work well for you and your family.

Subscribe to be notified of more posts like this!

*Dial 911 or take your child directly to the Emergency Room if you think your child’s life is in danger

All content on this website, including medical opinion and any other health-related information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this website and the information contained does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor before starting any specific treatment plan.

25 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page