Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care Center

Boy Hugging Knee Your child has a bad cold that won’t go away. She sprained her ankle. He’s having an asthma attack. Head to the emergency room? Not necessarily.

An urgent care center can handle many of these and other conditions — conditions you might think are better suited for an emergency room. However, the emergency room is designed to provide fast, life-saving care, and while you may feel the urgency of your child’s issue, it may not meet the medical criteria for an emergency room.

CHOP's urgent care centers

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has two pediatric urgent care centers, one in Mays Landing, NJ, and one in King of Prussia, PA, both staffed by a dedicated team of board-certified physicians and nurses with special training in pediatrics who are ready to treat a host of injuries or illness. Illnesses and injuries such as:

  • Abscess care
  • Allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Broken bones
  • Coughs, colds and sore throats
  • Cuts or minor gashes
  • Dehydration
  • Ear aches
  • Fever in babies younger than 2 months
  • Removal of ticks, splinters, hooks and other sharp objects
  • Headaches
  • Minor burns
  • Minor head injuries
  • Foreign objects in the ear or the nose
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes
  • Sports injuries
  • Sunburn
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Unfortunately, sometimes you will be faced with a true emergency and need to take your child to the emergency room. Here are some of the top reasons to visit the ER:

  • Poisoning
  • Burns or smoke inhalation
  • Choking
  • Sudden impact injuries such as from a car or bicycle accident, or falls from heights
  • Near drowning
  • Electric shocks
  • Frequent trouble breathing
  • Blue or purple skin or lips
  • Bleeding that you can’t stop
  • Seizures
  • Losing consciousness
  • Any change in behavior following loss of consciousness, especially after a head injury, including vomiting, disorientation and headache
  • Loose or knocked out teeth or other injuries to the mouth or face
  • Steadily decreasing responsiveness