shutterstock_1723848115_2jo0GfW..jpeg (shutterstock_1723848115.webp)When your child is injured or feeling unwell, one of the most important decisions you have to make is where to take them for medical care. Being able to discern when your child might need a visit to their pediatrician, an urgent care center, or the emergency room can help ensure they receive the appropriate care. Plus, this knowledge can help parents make timely decisions, potentially preventing serious consequences.

At Capital Area Pediatrics, we understand that navigating the world of pediatric healthcare can be overwhelming. That's why we're here to simplify things for you and provide guidance on when and where to seek medical attention for your child.

When to Visit Your CAP Pediatrician

Your child's pediatrician should be your first point of contact for any non-emergency medical concerns. Typically, this includes general check-ups and vaccinations, but in the case of common illnesses, your pediatrician is still a valuable resource. This allows for a thorough evaluation by someone who already has an in-depth understanding of your child's medical history and can provide the most personalized care possible.

The familiar environment of the doctor's office also often makes children feel more comfortable, facilitating better communication and a more accurate diagnosis. Plus, by seeing your pediatrician first, you can save time and money by avoiding a potentially unnecessary trip to the emergency room or urgent care center.

Our pediatricians recommend self-scheduling an express sick visit if your child is showing symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Cough/cold
  • RSV or flu-like symptoms
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Rashes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Persistent pain, such as stomachache, sore throat, headache, or an earache

Capital Area Pediatrics offers extended hours at all sites, including during evenings and on weekends. Remember, the winter is a particularly busy time of year for all illnesses and all of our offices will be doing their best to accommodate all patients.

Express sick visits are for existing patients of all ages, at any of our offices, with simple sick symptoms lasting less than 3 weeks. These appointments are for same-day sick visits, and should not be scheduled days in advance. They open gradually throughout the day, as we try to fill earliest to latest.

Always check back throughout the day as more appointments open. Morning appointments are typically made available for scheduling after 7 PM the evening before. Patients scheduling through the website will have access to the same schedule as those scheduling over the phone. If there are no openings, it is likely that we are at capacity for that shift.

When to Visit an Urgent Care Center

Urgent care centers are designed to handle non-life-threatening situations that still require immediate attention. Though your pediatrician’s office should still be your first choice, a pediatric urgent care center can fill the gap when our schedule is full and sick visits are unavailable.

Additionally, urgent care centers are ideal for minor injuries like:

  • Minor cuts and lacerations that require stitches
  • Sprains and strains
  • Simple fractures or broken bones
  • Mild burns

Your local urgent cares, staffed by skilled physicians, nurses, and physician assistants, have extensive experience in handling urgent care patients and their unique needs. Their expertise, coupled with the additional services provided at urgent care locations, such as on-site X-rays, aid in delivering comprehensive care in a timely manner.

However, it's still best to schedule these types of appointments with your pediatrician whenever possible. An urgent care center that specializes in pediatrics would be the next best option if your child needs immediate attention.

When to Head to the Emergency Room (ER)

The emergency room (or emergency department) should be reserved for severe or life-threatening conditions that demand immediate medical intervention. For pediatric patients, this could include:

  • Animal bite
  • Burns
  • Dehydration
  • Fevers in newborns (under 2 months)
  • Severe head injuries/concussions
  • Ingestion of poison
  • Large wounds or fractures
  • Loss of consciousness, confusion/ delirium
  • Seizure or other spells
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Trouble breathing
  • Choking/inhaling foreign body
  • Immediate threat to harm self or others
  • Severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding

In these situations, it's important to seek medical care at the nearest ER as soon as possible. This ensures that your child receives the most comprehensive and specialized care, with all the necessary resources at hand. Plus, emergency rooms are open 24/7 and have staff specially trained in emergency care, making them the most appropriate option for these types of situations.

Thankfully, in pediatrics, the need for emergency care is rarer than you might think. Many everyday injuries and illnesses can be treated by your pediatrician, which can help your child avoid exposure to additional germs and infections at the hospital and reduce how much your family will have to spend on emergency medical care. In addition, by avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room, you're also helping to reduce wait times for your family and those who are in need of immediate, emergency care.

The Right Medical Care for Your Child's Needs

Discerning the right medical care for your child's needs can be simple when you understand the difference between your pediatrician's office, urgent care, and the ER. In short:

  • Your CAP pediatrician is your go-to for non-emergency medical concerns and common illnesses.
  • Urgent care centers are equipped to handle pressing but non-life-threatening conditions, especially when your pediatrician is unavailable.
  • The emergency room should be reserved for severe or life-threatening situations that require immediate medical attention.

If you're ever unsure about which option is best for your child's specific case, you can also consult this symptom checker from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, please don't hesitate to reach out to us - via phone or via portal.

We're always here to help and provide guidance on the best course of action for your child. Our board-certified pediatricians and nurse practitioners are trained to provide comprehensive care for children of all ages, always with a gentle and compassionate touch.

From well-child visits to specialty care, the team at Capital Area Pediatrics is here to help your family stay healthy all year long. Request an appointment online, or find a location near you today.