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Help! Do I take my child to the emergency center or urgent care?


Sometimes families need to visit an emergency center after hours, on weekends or perhaps even during the day, when a significant event occurs with their child. Though the emergency center is the right place for some incidents or ailments, the majority of the time, minor illnesses can and should be treated at a pediatric urgent care facility when your physician’s office is closed and you are not comfortable waiting until the office opens.

One of the most common concerns for parents is when their child has a fever. For children 4 weeks of age or younger who have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, parents should immediately take the child to a pediatric emergency center. If the child is older than 8 weeks with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, parents should contact their pediatrician or seek care at a pediatric urgent care clinic. Infants between 4 and 8 weeks of age with fever should be taken to a pediatric emergency center if the infant is acting sick, otherwise contact your pediatrician’s office for instructions.

Fever in children older than 6 months of age can often be treated during the first 24 to 48 hours with medicine to reduce fever for comfort (Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen) and fluids to maintain hydration. You should contact your physician or consider visiting a pediatric urgent care facility if fever persists for more than 24 to 48 hours, or if your child looks sick despite attempting fever reduction.

Any conditions which threaten a child’s life or limb should be treated at a pediatric emergency center, which can also provide initial stabilization for severely injured pediatric patients. Other conditions that should be treated at a pediatric emergency center include:

  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Extensive or complicated cuts or lacerations
  • Fainting or head injury with loss of consciousness or disorientation
  • Loss or change of vision
  • Major fracture that breaks the skin or is at a severe angle
  • Seizures without a previous diagnosis of epilepsy
  • Serious burns
  • Snake bites
  • Spinal injuries
  • Sudden change in mental state
  • Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood

For those conditions that require immediate care but are not life threatening, families should seek care for their child at a pediatric urgent care clinic. Texas Children’s Urgent Care currently has 11 locations (Cinco Ranch, East, Fairfield, Kingwood, Main Campus, Memorial, Pearland, The Heights, The Vintage, Panther Creek and West Campus) offering high-quality, efficient and affordable patient care during evenings and weekends, in convenient, community locations. 

Texas Children’s Urgent Care is equipped to treat the following conditions:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Cough
  • Croup
  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Minor burns
  • Minor injuries from falls or sports
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes
  • Simple lacerations
  • Sinus infections
  • Skin infections
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Many lacerations can be dealt with at urgent care, including minor lacerations to the face. While many minor lacerations may be repaired with or without the use of stitches at urgent care, it may be necessary to send some patients with more complicated lacerations to a pediatric emergency center.

These tips should help guide parents as they determine which setting is best suited to treat their child’s ailments and injuries. However, if there is ever any doubt, families can always contact their pediatrician for additional decision-making support.

Learn more about urgent care vs. emergency center in the infographic below.

urgent care vs emergency center

Dr. Stan Spinner, Texas Children's Pediatrics and Texas Children's Urgent Care Chief Medical Officer