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When should you take your child to the emergency room, urgent care, or the pediatrician’s office?

Sick Kids
Posted at 4:12 PM, Nov 14, 2022

(WXYZ) — Pediatric hospital beds have been filling up throughout Michigan due to respiratory viruses. To help relieve stress on the hospital system, health experts want parents to know when to take a child to the pediatrician’s office, urgent care, or an emergency room.

RELATED: ER, urgent care or pediatrician’s office? Here’s what to do if your child is sick or hurt

I’m a parent, and I know it can be upsetting and sometimes scary to see your child sick and feeling awful. And you want to get them help and on the mend right away. But not everything is an emergency. In fact, there are specific symptoms that indicate to parents whether their child should see their pediatrician or visit urgent care or the ER.

First, if your child is not feeling well but can go about their usual routine, then it’s most likely you can schedule a visit with your pediatrician. Symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Earaches
  • Minor pains, bumps or bruises
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drainage from the eye
  • Fever in a child over 2 months old
  • A fussy baby

For Urgent Care, these centers also provide non-emergency care. And you typically go when your doctor's office is closed, and your child has these types of symptoms:

  • Minor burns
  • Minor asthma flares
  • Small cuts
  • Sprains or minor fractures
  • An injury or an illness that doesn’t seem serious but cannot wait til the next day

Now, here are some situations and symptoms when you should bring your child to an emergency room:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe burn
  • Dehydration
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Deep wound or bleeding heavily
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Inability to wake up a child
  • A bone injury that’s causing loss of movement
  • Fevers with headache and stiff neck, or in a child under the age of 2 months
  • And a child that suddenly can’t speak, see or move normally or appears confused

Parents should call 911 if their child is:

  • choking
  • has severe breathing difficulty
  • has turned blue
  • has experienced a head injury or is unconscious
  • has a neck or spine injury
  • is bleeding so bad it can’t be stopped
  • is experiencing a seizure that’s lasting more than 5 minutes

Now, I know that sometimes you can’t tell how sick a child really is, especially when they’re young and can’t express themselves. If it’s after hours, many pediatricians' offices have an answering service that can connect you with a physician on-call. If not, then always trust your parental instinct. But if you can, please avoid Emergency Rooms to ease the burden on staff and hospital systems.