Have you ever noticed that your kids tend to hurt themselves whenever the pediatrician’s office is closed? Or is that just my kids?
Run teeth first into the bathtub? Must be close to bedtime. Dislocated arm as a result of a sibling shopping cart spat? Must be the weekend. Fever approaching 103? Your spouse probably just started the night shift at work.
For kids and adults alike, it can often be hard to know – especially in the panic of an unexpected medical event – whether you should go to your primary care provider, urgent care clinic or the emergency room.
Here are some guidelines that may help.
Primary CareEven those in good health should have an established primary care provider for annual check-ups. Your primary care provider understands your medical history. When you're not dealing with an immediate emergency, call him/her first to guide your next steps if you are faced with a medical situation and are unsure of exactly where to turn.
Urgent care centers are appropriate when you:
- Can’t get in to see your primary care physician
- Need medical treatment after your physician office has closed
- Need prompt medical attention but the services are not emergent
The following list is not comprehensive but does offer some general guidelines for the types of conditions appropriate for urgent care:
- Minor burns or injuries
- Minor cuts
- Sore throat
- Sprains or strains
- Cold or flu symptoms
- Ear infections
- Mild asthma
- Animal bites
- Minor broken bones
- Urinary tract infection
You should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital Emergency room with any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Poisoning or overdose
- Heavy or uncontrolled bleeding
- Sudden change in mental ability
- Sudden onset of sharp or severe pain
- Sudden severe headache
- Dislocated joint
- Broken bones with deformity or that break the skin
- Vaginal bleeding during a pregnancy
- Major burn
- Severe reaction to an insect bite, medication or food
It’s important to remember that children may display different symptoms than adults, and symptoms that are serious for a child may not be as serious for an adult. Children may also be unable to communicate their condition, which means an adult will have to interpret the behavior. Seek immediate medical attention if you think your child is having a medical emergency.