Pediatric HealthSource: When to Go to an Urgent Care

Dr. Mike Patrick

Q: How do I decide if my child needs to go to an urgent care?

A: Even during a pandemic, children get sick or hurt every day. While it’s normal to feel hesitant about going out into public spaces during this time, it is very important to continue to seek important health care for your child, and facilities like urgent care centers have made changes to keep patients, families and staff as safe as possible.

A good starting point when a problem arises is a child’s pediatrician, since they are most familiar with a child’s care and can help parents decide the best course of action. Some problems require immediate attention, while others can be addressed at an upcoming office visit or can even be managed at home. If an illness or injury appears life-threatening, parents should go to the nearest emergency department, and call 911 if necessary.

The best urgent care for kids is one designed specifically for them. Children are not small adults—they deserve special care from providers with pediatric training and expertise. Urgent care centers are great when same-day treatment is needed for conditions such as:

  • Mild allergic reactions (rash)
  • Mild asthma attacks/difficulty breathing
  • Small broken bones
  • Small burns or cuts
  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Sore throat 
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Ear infections

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog:

Dr. Mike Patrick is an emergency medicine physician and general pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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Be Prepared

Parents should choose an urgent care center that is a good fit for their child, and they should talk through options with their child’s pediatrician before an urgent care visit is needed. In order to make the best choice, parents should:

  • Plan ahead. Know which centers are close to your home, school, sports facility, etc. Find out if they have doctors, nurse practitioners or both, and learn about what their range of services includes.
  • Connect with your pediatrician. When an illness or injury does occur, be sure to speak with your child’s doctor or another provider on call to determine what can wait for care and what cannot.
  • Know when to go to the emergency department. Trips to the emergency department should be reserved for significant illness or injury. If your child’s condition is life-threatening, call 911.
Dr. Mike Patrick


Columbus Parent