As a mom, you always want to provide the best medical care for your little one, and it can be hard to make in-the-moment decisions when it comes to urgent and emergency care. Here, we’ll explore how to decide whether an online appointment with a virtual doctor or a trip to the emergency room is the right fit for your child’s woes.

child sleeping sick

Insect Stings

Insect stings are one of the worst parts of the summer months! Many children experience bee or wasp stings at some point, and as a parent, it can be tough to know whether your child needs medical treatment for a sting.

If your child is showing standard signs of a sting, such as pain at the site of the sting, redness, and slight swelling, you’re good to chat with an urgent care doctor over the phone to get the next steps for home care. If your child is showing signs of an allergic reaction — such as trouble breathing, an itchy feeling in the throat or the mouth, or paralysis of the affected limb — it’s time to call an ambulance or head to the emergency room.

Burns

Burns are scary, and it can be tough to evaluate the seriousness of a burn on your own. Larger burns are more serious than smaller burns. If a burn covers 2% of the body or more, it’s important to head to the emergency room for treatment. This can be a tough percentage to visualize — in most people, the palm of the hand is about 1% of the surface of the body.

Burns that are second-degree or higher also necessitate emergency care. Second-degree burns blister and are deeper than the surface level of the skin. Higher-level burns may also appear white or charred, or may even involve bone.

If a burn is surface-level only and doesn’t cover a large area of the body, urgent care treatment is a good option for care.

Cold and Flu Symptoms

In today’s post-COVID-19 world, it can be tough to know when to treat cold and flu symptoms at home and when to take a more serious approach. If flu symptoms are mild, it’s smart to reach out to an urgent care doctor for treatment (and to discuss whether you need to come in for a COVID-19 test).

When cold and flu symptoms become more severe, you may need to head to the emergency room. A fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, shortness of breath or other trouble breathing, a bluish tint to the lips and fingernails, lack of tears or wet diapers, extreme irritability, and a skin rash that accompanies other flu-like symptoms are all signs that it’s a smart move to take your child to the ER to be evaluated.

Stomach Issues

Stomach pain can feel debilitating, but thankfully, most digestive issues pass quickly. If your child complains of a stomach ache, it’s smart to reach out to an urgent care doctor for an evaluation. The stomach flu is common among young kids, and an urgent care doctor can talk with you about how to meet your child’s hydration and comfort needs at home.

In some cases, it’s important to seek emergency care for stomach pain. If your child has had surgery on their digestive system, their stomach appears to be bruised or swollen, or if they’ve had recent trauma to their stomach area, it’s important to go to the ER. If your child is vomiting blood, has bloody diarrhea, is vomiting and struggling to move their bowels, or if they’re having chest pressure or pain, it’s also important to be seen by an emergency room healthcare provider right away.

Rashes and Other Skin Issues

In many cases, skin rashes in childhood are a case of contact dermatitis. This means that the skin is irritated after brushing up against an irritant, like a plant, animal, fabric, or even the fragrance of a new laundry detergent. Poison ivy and poison sumac are also common skin irritants that can cause rashes in children. If your child develops a rash without other symptoms, it’s a smart idea to talk with an urgent care doctor about home treatments that you can provide to ease your child’s discomfort as their body works to get rid of the irritant that caused the rash.

If your child has a rash accompanied by shortness of breath, a headache, a fever, joint pain, peeling skin, red streaks, bruises or bleeding from under the rash, or other symptoms that go beyond skin irritation, it’s important that you take them to the emergency room.