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Call the Pediatrician—Or Head to Urgent Care?

Deciding when to call the pediatrician and when to take your sick or injured child to urgent care can be a tough call.

When to Call the Doctor

Some ailments, such as a simple cough or constipation, don’t usually require medical attention. But call your child’s pediatrician if he or she has:

  •  A fever of 100.4  degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher in a baby younger than 2 months old (using a rectal thermometer)

  • A rash, especially if your child also has a fever  

  • A fever accompanied by repeated vomiting

  • Trouble swallowing or a severe sore throat

  • Sharp or constant pain in the stomach

  • Blood in the urine or bloody diarrhea

  • Vomiting and diarrhea lasting more than a few hours

  • A cough or cold that does not improve in several days, or a cold that gets worse and is accompanied by a fever  

  • Discharge from the ear

  • Ear pain with a fever

  • An inability to sleep or drink

  • Limping or an inability to move an arm or leg  

While this list is a helpful guide, follow your parenting instinct: If you feel something’s wrong, it’s worth a call to your child’s pediatrician.

When to Visit an Urgent Care Center

In cases of minor injury or illness, urgent care centers are a convenient choice. Consider visiting an urgent care center if your child has:

  • Minor cuts or burns

  • Sprains or broken bones

  • Flu symptoms

  • Poison ivy and insect bites

  • Mild, non-life-threatening allergic reactions

If your child is severely ill or injured, call 911 right away. Emergency signs include uncontrolled bleeding, seizures, trouble breathing, and unconsciousness.

Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Online Medical Reviewer: M. Trevino, Heather, BSN, RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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