Urgent Care vs. Office Visit

By Colleen McCabe, MSN, CRNP

What do I do when my child is sick and the office is closed?

Most likely, you will want to make your child feel better as quick as possible. This is when the idea of an urgent care can come to mind. Urgent care facilities are marketed as a health care facility that is capable of providing immediate, fast care. While an urgent care provider is able to provide quick diagnoses, they may not always provide the best care for your child. An urgent care provider has no access to your child’s health history including allergies, recent and chronic illnesses, surgical history, or growth history, all which are important in making diagnoses and treatment plans. Many urgent care facilities are staffed by providers who focus on adult care, which can lead to over prescribing and misdiagnosing in the pediatric population. According to the American Journal of Managed Care, over half of urgent care visits lead to unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions for upper respiratory illnesses in which an antibiotic is not recommended or proved to be effective. Treating a viral illness with an antibiotic is just one example of how an urgent care visit may lead to a misdiagnosis for your child. [1]

So what are you suppose to do when your child is sick after hours? 

There are several options. If you child is breathing comfortably, their fever is controlled with Tylenol/Motrin, they are staying hydrated, and they are not showing signs of extreme pain or distress, it is safe for you to keep your child comfortable at home and have them seen the next day or two by one of our healthcare providers. We see sick patients every day of the week at our office. If you are unsure whether your child needs to be seen in the emergency room or if they can wait to be seen in the office, we encourage you to call us after hours. We have a provider available to speak to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When are urgent cares a good idea? 

Urgent care can be useful for patients who are traveling and are in need of medical attention but not near our office. Urgent care can treat strep throat, ear infections, skin infections, asthma, or wrist/ankle sprains. If your child is in any respiratory distress, severely dehydrated, severe abdominal pain, or life threatening medical episode, your child should go to the emergency room, not an urgent care.

[1] Palms D, Hicks L, Bartoces M, et al. Comparison of antibiotic prescribing in retail clinics, urgent care centers, emergency departments, and traditional ambulatory care settings in the United States [published online July 16, 2018]. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1632.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *