When to Take Your Child to the ER

As a parent, you always want the best medical care for your child. You have a trusted pediatrician who sees your child on a routine basis, but what should you do when your child gets unexpectedly hurt or ill and your doctor isn’t available? It’s important to know when it’s okay to wait and make an appointment, and when to take your child to the ER. 

Urgent care can be great for fevers, stomach bugs, and other kid emergencies. But sometimes the situation is more serious than they can handle, or you may need care after hours when urgent care centers are closed. When exactly should you skip the urgent care and head straight to the ER? 

When every second counts, having the right information is key. Let’s look at the difference between ER vs urgent care when it comes to pediatric emergencies, and when you should take your child to the ER. 

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ER vs urgent care for pediatric emergencies

If your child is sick or in pain, it can be difficult to decide what to do. Knowing where to go is the most important decision you can make — it could even be the difference between life and death. 

ERs are open 24/7/365, while urgent care centers have specific hours. Urgent care hours also mean longer wait times. In a true emergency, you’ll want the level of care an ER provides. Check out our blog on this topic for more in-depth information. 

Urgent care centers deal with some of the same issues that ERs do, but they are not equipped for the same level of care. They may have imaging and lab testing capabilities, but they don’t have the ability to do more in-depth analysis. ERs are able to provide more imaging services and lab testing, which could mean that your child receives the specific care they need faster. Read on for examples of situations in which you should choose the ER over Urgent Care.

READ MORE: Urgent Care or ER? Where Should You Go? 

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When to take your child to the ER for vomiting

It’s not uncommon for children to experience nausea or vomiting from time to time, especially when they’re not feeling well. It’s easy to chalk these symptoms up to a stomach bug. But when should you take your child to the ER for vomiting

If your child experiences any of the following symptoms along with vomiting, you should seek emergency care immediately.

  • Chest pain
  • A high fever
  • Abdominal pain or severe cramping
  • Feces or the smell of feces in vomit
  • Blood, black particles, or green fluid in vomit
  • Severe headache
  • Dehydration
  • Persistent or uncontrolled vomiting
  • Listless, lethargic, or confused

Coupled with vomiting, these symptoms could indicate a more serious issue, so it’s best to have your child seen immediately. 

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When to take your child to the ER for fever

Fevers are a common symptom of a range of illnesses. They can be caused by allergies or a severe infection. A severe fever in a child is greater than 102℉; in infants it’s 100.4℉. Some fevers respond to over-the-counter medications, while others don’t. 

So, at what temperature should I take my child to the ER? It’s not that simple. 

Here are some other symptoms to look for if you’re trying to decide when to take your child to the ER for a fever

  • Seizures
  • Too weak to speak or stand
  • Trouble breathing
  • Purple or blood-colored spots on skin
  • Shaking
  • Listless, lethargic, or confused

A fever along with any combination of these symptoms should be considered a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate care for your child. If none of these symptoms are present, the fever can usually be treated at home with lots of rest, fluids, a cold compress, and over-the-counter fever-reducing medicines. 

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When to take a child to the ER for COVID

Unfortunately, COVID isn’t going anywhere. Even with vaccines available, kids are still getting sick with the virus and need care. Aside from identifying the infection, an ER can provide the kind of care your child might need. 

When should you take your child to the ER for COVID? Our list will provide some answers.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough and fever
  • Significant and increasing cough
  • Chest pain
  • Blue face or lips

If your child is experiencing these symptoms, in addition to a positive COVID test, take it seriously. They probably need to be seen right away.

Book your COVID test here. Curbside testing appointments are available at all six of our emergency centers every day. 

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When to take your child to the ER for a cough

Children cough all the time. It’s a common symptom of many childhood illnesses, but it can also mean something more serious is happening. Knowing the difference between clearing out the airways and something more serious can be tricky. 

If your child is coughing and has the following symptoms, they may need immediate care. 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Blue lips or face
  • A high fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Retractions around chest or neck
  • Abdominal breathing
  • Nasal flaring

A serious cough could also be a sign of COVID, so make sure to rule it out through our testing center

Visit our pediatric ER in your neighborhood

When your child needs to be seen at an ER, Neighbors Emergency Center is here for you and your family. We treat all pediatric emergencies, and with six locations around the Houston metro area, our physicians are ready to serve you anytime.

In an emergency, you shouldn’t have to worry if your child’s care will be covered by your insurance. All of our locations are in-network with BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna, and Aetna. Just one more reason we‘re your Best Neighbors Ever.