Should I Take My Child to the Emergency Room or Pediatrician?

Specific symptoms will warrant a trip to the emergency room
An adult holds a child and feels their forehead

Q: My child is in pain. Should I take them to the emergency room, urgent care or the doctor’s office?

A: It can be scary to witness your child suffer an injury or illness, especially because their reaction is often filled with fear, pain and shock.

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You also might not know how serious their condition is because it’s difficult for them to communicate exactly how they’re feeling. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Paul M. Saluan, MD shares when you should take your child to the emergency room, urgent care or doctor’s office.

When to take your child to the doctor’s office

“If your child seems stable from an illness or injury but has minor aches, pains, bumps or bruises, then you can schedule a visit with a physician or pediatrician,” says Dr. Saluan. The telltale sign that they’re doing OK is if they’re able to go about their daily routine — eating, playing, sleeping, etc.

When to take your child to urgent care

If you’re not able to get in to your pediatrician’s office within a couple of days of illness or injury, take your child to an urgent care facility, especially if it seems like symptoms of an illness aren’t relenting or an injury is starting to concern you.

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When to take your child to the emergency room

Take your child to a hospital emergency room (or call 911) if they’ve been hurt by a significant impact or fall, having trouble breathing, have a broken limb, are bleeding, or seek immediate medical attention if they develop:

  • A physical deformity.
  • Swelling.
  • Loss of motion in an injured arm or leg.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • High fever.

The bottom line is, if you’re unsure about the severity of your child’s illness or injury, always seek emergency attention. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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