By Claudine A. Mendoza, M.D.
Your child gets sick. Where should you go to seek medical assistance? Does my pediatrician have an opening to see my child today? Can I wait until my pediatrician’s office opens tomorrow? Is my child sick enough for the emergency room where there are long waits, insurance issues, and a room full of sick people? With so many options and questions, how do you know when and where to take your child?
Every parent who has had a sick child has asked the same questions. There are many resources when your child gets sick. Your pediatrician is your main source of help and first destination when your child becomes sick. Your pediatrician can answer all of your questions and treat most illnesses and problems that are presented to his or her practice.
If you have questions about your child’s health, call your pediatrician. If your pediatrician is not available, you have the option of taking your child to an urgent care or the emergency room.
An urgent care clinic is usually able to handle most, if not all, of the illnesses and problems that your pediatrician’s office can see. Fever, ear pain, cough, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, eye discharge and redness, vomiting, diarrhea, and pain when urinating are just some of the examples an urgent care clinic can see.
Many urgent cares can also suture simple lacerations, see minor head injuries, treat asthma attacks, remove foreign bodies from the nose and ears, evaluate minor sprains, and splint injured extremities. In addition, an urgent care may have a laboratory to run basic tests and perform blood work. Some have an x-ray machine to check for fractures and do chest x-rays. Cheaper co-pays, shorter wait times than an emergency room, and quick turnaround times attract most parents to an urgent care.
Good Night Pediatrics is an urgent care center open from 5 p.m.–5 a.m. every night of the year, including holidays with pediatricians seeing newborns through 18-year-olds and accepts most insurances. Your child can be seen in a shorter amount of time than in an emergency room.
Sometimes children can have more serious illnesses or problems and should be seen in the emergency room. These problems include severe asthma attacks and difficulty breathing, prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and removal of batteries that a child has placed in his nose, ear, or swallowed. If your child is under the age of 2 months and has a fever, then he should immediately be seen in the emergency room. Head injuries with loss of consciousness and complicated lacerations can be seen in the emergency room as well as any changes in mental status, seizures, or serious extremity injuries or burns.
If you have questions or are unsure of what to do, call your pediatrician for advice on what to do and where to take your child if treatment is needed. If you believe your child’s life is in danger, call 911.
Claudine A. Mendoza, M.D. is a pediatrician at Good Night Pediatrics, an all-night urgent care just for kids every night of the year from 5 P.M. to 5 A.M.