As any parent knows, accidents are as unpredictable as the kids who have them. When an accident or illness strikes, choosing the correct level of care they’ll need is easier said than done. Some parents can’t opt for “better safe than sorry”, while other parents believe a “wait and see” approach is best.
Which begs the question… Which route is better?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear-cut. Whether you are a new or experienced parent, understanding the severity of your child’s unexpected illness or injury is a taxing responsibility. A young person’s symptoms and immune system constantly change as they grow older. Your decision needs to be based on the urgency and severity of the accident, your child’s age, and their past health records. Every situation is unique. However, by learning what Urgent Care and Emergency Care offer before-hand, you’ll be prepared to handle any health issue requiring immediate medical care.
If Possible, Call Your Family Pediatrician.
If your child’s illness or injury occurs during office hours, we recommend calling your pediatrician. Without having to make an appointment, your pediatrician’s office will gladly offer professional advice on the level of care your child needs. A family pediatrician knows your child’s medical history, placing them in the best position to help you decide if urgent or emergency care is needed.
When to Choose Urgent or Extended Hours Care
When your pediatrician isn’t available, Urgent Care (also known as Extended Hours Care or After Hours Care) is most likely the best option for treating a non-life threatening situation. An Urgent Care or Extended Hours Clinic will provide your child with immediate access to medical care.
As anyone who’s visited both an ER and an Extended Hours Clinic will tell you, the costs of Urgent Care are significantly less than a visit to the ER. In fact, the decision to see an Urgent Care Facility can often save you over $1,000. Urgent or Extended Hours Care generally accepts Medi-Cal, HMO and most PPO insurance plans, resulting in low co-pays for most patients. This offers patients affordable and immediate access to quality care from Board Certified Pediatricians.
In addition to the weight on your wallet, ER treatment is notorious for long wait times. Emergency physicians treat life-threatening emergencies first. As a result, your child’s cut or cold may have to spend a few hours in the waiting room. When considering your child’s mental well-being, a trip to the emergency room can induce unnecessary stress in young patients.
Perhaps the most important factor to consider: A trip to the ER exposes children to other patient’s germs and hospital-acquired infections. These contagions put your child at risk of contracting a more serious illness or bacterial infection.
What Urgent Care or Extended Hours Care Can Treat:
- Sprains, strains and minor fractures
- Non-life threatening emergencies
- Minor stitches
- School screenings and sports physicals
- Minor cuts and burns
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Allergies, rashes and infections
- Minor fever or fevers with a rash
- Newborn babies with a temperature of or exceeding 100.4 degrees
- Colds, flu and coughs
- Basic eye and ear care
- Vaccinations and boosters
At an Urgent Care or Extended Hours Care Facility, patients are immediately provided any necessary prescriptions, a treatment plan explaining their diagnosis, follow-up care instructions, and a written summary to share with their regular pediatrician.
When to Choose Emergency Care
If your child is suffering from a life-threatening illness or severe physical injury, you should take them to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible. As a patient experiencing a severe injury or life-threatening illness, you’ll be given priority status and access to a fully staffed hospital team equipped with medical imaging capabilities and certified doctors licensed to perform critical or life-saving procedures.
Generally, emergency rooms are open 24/7 and are located in hospitals, making them better equipped to handle critical or complex situations such as a stroke, severe illness, or traumatic injury.
What Emergency Care Can Treat:
- Broken Bones
- Deep cuts requiring stitches and/or bleeding excessively
- Persistent chest pain, especially when accompanied by sweating, vomiting, shortness of breath, or have pain radiating to your jaw or arm
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe heart palpitations
- Sudden, severe headache
- Difficulty speaking, altered mental status, confusion, trouble understanding speech
- Sudden paralysis on one side of the body
- Significant vision changes, including blurred or double vision, or partial to full vision loss
- Severe flu or cold symptoms, such as a high fever
- Constant vomiting
- Serious burns
Depending on your diagnosis, emergency room physicians may refer you to a specialist after the visit. Emergency physicians have the authority to prescribe any necessary prescriptions, and offer advice on additional treatment and follow-up care.
Infants and Toddlers Require Special Medical Attention.
Parents of an infant or toddler often find themselves faced with the most complicated decision. Beyond helping someone who’s unable to articulate their level of pain, the physiology of very young children differs from older children and adults. Young children, particularly infants, may not display the traditional symptoms older children and adults experience and associate with certain illnesses or infections. This makes diagnosing and treating an infant or toddler simultaneously more difficult and more critical to their recovery.
As parents of young children, you should always go with your instincts. Your newborn or toddler will not always display typical symptoms, making following your “gut feeling” about their well-being crucial to the child’s long-term health. As a general rule, it’s best to opt for Urgent Care or Extended Hours Care to assess and treat the fragile immune system of an infant or toddler. As mentioned previously, children who are not suffering from a life-threatening emergency take an unnecessarily risk when visiting the ER, as they are more susceptible to a fellow ER patient’s illness or a hospital-acquired infection.
Is There a Difference Between Extended Hours Care and Urgent Care?
Technically, Extended Hours Care and After Hours Care are a form of Urgent Care. While there is no official standard for Urgent Care or Extended Hours Care, the different titles are commonly used to separate the two services. More often than not, Extended Hours Care is Urgent Care provided by your family pediatrician’s office or medical group.
Urgent Care Clinics are more likely to be stand-alone clinics, and are unlikely to be affiliated with a general practitioner’s office or group. Consistent with new patient appointments, Urgent Care Clinics are often accompanied by additional expenses and paperwork. Physicians who are unfamiliar with a patient’s medical history are more likely to run costly tests the patient either doesn’t need or has already undergone.
Extended Hours Care is generally available at your family pediatrician’s office or medical group, offering personalized care from a medical team the patient knows and trusts. If an urgent medical need arises after regular office hours or when your pediatrician is unable to schedule a last minute appointment, Extended Hours Care is a great option. An Extended Hours Care facility has access to all patient medical records, helping them better understand the urgency and severity of your child’s illness. In addition, follow-up appointments can be scheduled during regular office hours, helping patients forgo the expenses of future Urgent Care treatment.
Kids and Teens Medical Group
Live in the area? We’re here to help! At Kids & Teens Extended Hours Pediatric Care, we deliver the best comprehensive medical care to infants, children and adolescents in Pasadena and San Fernando Valley. We are a NCQA Certified Patient-Centered Medical Home with NCQA Certified pediatricians working in the most prominent hospitals in the area. Our Extended Hours Pediatric Care locations accept Medi-Cal, HMO and most PPO insurance plans. Please call our Northridge location or Pasadena location at (818) 361-5437 to speak with a staff member or Contact Us online.