When should you take your child to urgent care?
Parents worry when their child is sick or hurt, even more so during a pandemic. One thing that helps is knowing the right place to go: pediatrician’s office, urgent care center or the emergency room.
“Don't be afraid that if you go to the wrong place, you're not going to get the care that you need, but it’s good to have a general idea of which provider is appropriate,” said Emergency Medicine Physician Kristen Liska, MD, who treats patients at Cape Cod Hospital’s Emergency Center and the Cape Cod Healthcare Urgent Care in Hyannis.
If it’s a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to the ER right away, she said.
“There are limitations to what we can do in urgent care,” she said. Issues such as serious head injuries, compound fractures and suspected overdose of medications or ingestion of household products should be treated at the ER.
“Urgent care can check blood sugars, do a strep throat test and COVID tests, but most lab work needs to be done at a hospital. We can't do the necessary lab work if the child is really sick, lethargic, confused or has a very high fever.”
Urgent care can do X-rays and treat mild broken bones and sprains, as well as mild lacerations. “We only have Tylenol and Motrin at urgent cares. We don't have any of the stronger pain medications.”
Most other situations can be handled by your pediatrician or an urgent care center.
In non-emergency situations, it’s often a good idea to call the child’s pediatric practice first. A nurse or a provider can guide you on the best treatment setting.
“Right now, there's a wide variety of what primary care doctors feel comfortable seeing or have time to see,” Dr. Liska said. But, in general, your child’s pediatrician can handle coughs and colds, strep throat, urinary complaints, mild nausea, vomiting, sprains, tick bites, pink eye and mild allergic reactions, for example, she said.
But those also can be treated at an urgent care center, if you can’t get an appointment with your pediatrician, or if it is during times when your doctor’s office is closed.
And don’t fret about potential exposure to the coronavirus at a medical center.
“We would much rather have people come and be evaluated if they feel they're having an illness or a condition that needs to be seen by a physician, rather than stay home for fear of coming in contact with the virus,” she said. “We minimize the risk as much as possible by doing lots of cleaning and we all wear masks, gloves and PPE.”
Cape Cod Healthcare’s urgent care centers are located in Falmouth, Harwich, Hyannis, Sandwich, and now in Osterville. Check online for wait time and directions.