While many bacterial, fungal and viral infections, including the flu, can be treated in an outpatient setting or at an urgent care health center, you should call your pediatrician right away to determine if you need to go to the emergency room, especially if your child is 2 to 3 months or younger and has a temperature higher than 100 if an infant and higher than 103 degrees for other ages—or has severe pain, swelling, a bluish tinge to the skin or very labored breathing.

Kidney infection and urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections caused by bacteria are quite common in children, and can lead to kidney damage if left untreated.

In older children, the symptoms may be more obvious such as burning or pain with urination. But the symptoms may be less specific and harder to detect with younger children, who often just have a fever.

The more serious infections may be treated in a hospital where antibiotics are given by injection or delivered through the veins. Children tend to be hospitalized for these infections when:

  • The child has a high fever or looks very ill—a sign of kidney infection
  • The child is younger than 6 months
  • Bacteria from the infected urinary tract have spread to the blood
  • The child is dehydrated—has low levels of body fluids—or is vomiting and cannot take any fluids or medication by mouth

Learn more about kidney and urinary tract infections from KidsHealth

Skin and soft tissue infections

Many skin and soft tissue infections are often caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or one known as group A beta-hemolytic streptococci, that enter a cut, scratch or insect bite where the skin is open and can cause an infection of varying degrees of severity that are defined by the extent of the of the body affected.

Learn more about skin and soft tissue infections from KidsHealth

Cellulitis

When bacteria enter a break in the skin and spread, it can affect both the skin and underlying soft tissue. Children with diabetes, eczema and psoriasis, or an infectious disease such as chickenpox with skin sores, or who have had trauma to the skin from a tear or bite may be more susceptible to cellulitis.

Learn more about cellulitis from KidsHealth

Abscesses

Bacteria, fungi or other germs enter the body through an open wound or cut on the skin and activate the body’s immune system to fight the infection. White blood cells and other debris collect in the wound, forming pus that may not be able to drain, causing pain and swelling. Hospitalization may be required to administer antibiotics delivered into the bloodstream through the veins when infections do not drain and there are red streaks, fever and chills.

Learn more about abscesses from KidsHealth

Tonsillitis

The tonsils, located at the back of the throat, can become inflamed and swollen and can block airways when exposed to bacteria or a virus. Sometimes the inflammation is recurrent or persistent. In those cases, a surgical procedure called a tonsillectomy may be required to remove the tonsils and unblock the upper airway. The adenoids, located at the back of the nasal cavity, are often also affected when the tonsils are inflamed and swollen, and may also be removed.

Learn more about tonsillitis from KidsHealth


If your child is experiencing illness or injury contact your Main Line Health pediatrician. A dedicated pediatric emergency room and inpatient unit is located at Bryn Mawr Hospital. Emergency rooms are also located at Lankenau Medical Center, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.