Is it an Emergency?

When you can't see your doctor, you may think your only option for help is a hospital emergency department.  The hospital is the best place to go if you are truly having a medical emergency. But for less serious situations you have another choice. You can go to an urgent care center.

How do you know which is the best place to take your child?

Consider urgent care for things such as:

  • A cold or cough that doesn't get better in several days or a cold that gets worse and is accompanied by a fever
  • A minor cut that might need stitches
  • A rash, especially with fever
  • A bout of vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than a few hours.
  • A severe sore throat or a problem swallowing
  • A minor bone fracture
  • An insect or animal bite


But you'll want to call 911 or go to the emergency department if have signs of a medical emergency. Those include:

  • Any significant change in behavior, such as being confused, excessively sleepy or becoming increasingly less responsive or alert
  • A severe headache or vomiting, especially after a head injury
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Problems breathing
  • Increasing pain or severe, persistent pain
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea

Good things to know

Urgent care centers don't require an appointment. Most have evening and some weekend hours. Many of them offer services like X-rays, lab tests, and medications.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Emergency Physicians; National Association for Ambulatory Care