Your primary care physician, either pediatrician or family medical doctor, is always your child’s best health care provider. When your child becomes sick or injured, sometimes you can’t wait to see your doctor and you’ve got to quickly decide where to take your child—urgent care or the emergency room? These are some guidelines to help you in making your decision when your child is sick or injured or needs some immediate care.

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

When you should take your child to the emergency room

  • Your child has trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Your child has stopped breathing and lips or fingers are turning blue
  • Your child is unresponsive or difficult to arouse
  • Your child has numbness, tingling, or paralysis, or weakness on one side of the body
  • Your child has unexplained slurred speech or having trouble speaking
  • Your child has a severe headache or migraine along with blurred vision, difficulty speaking, numbness, tingling or paralysis
  • Your child is passing out, fainting
  • Your child has swallowed something AND has difficulty breathing (call 911)
  • An object is stuck in your child (do not try to pull it out)
  • Your child is coughing up or throwing up blood
  • Your child has chest pain or stomach pain or pressure
  • Your child is suddenly not able to speak, see, walk or move
  • Your child is having seizures that have lasted three to five minutes and do not stop
  • Your child is throwing up or loose stools that don’t stop
  • Your child’s mouth is dry, no tears, no wet diapers in 18 hours, or there is a soft spot in the skull is sunken
  • Your child has ingested something you believe is dangerous: call Poison Control first. They can oftentimes direct you where to go and might be able to alert the urgent care facility or emergency room of your arrival. Call poison control at 1.800.222.1222
  • Your child has been bitten by an animal, snake or a person—bites can become infected or scar, have disease or poison
  • Your child has a deep cut or other open wound
  • Your child has severe pain or loss of motion or sensation anywhere in the body
  • Your child has a high fever with a stiff neck
  • Your child has severe bleeding or bleeding that does not stop with direct pressure
  • Your child has severe burns or burns on the face
  • Your child has a possible broken bones, especially if the bone is pushing through the skin
  • A body part near your child’s injured bone is numb, tingling, weak, cold, or pale
  • Your child has suffered a head injury, especially if there is passing out, throwing up or not behaving normally
  • Your child has suffered a blunt or penetrating injury to the eye and has eye pain
  • Anyone under the age of 18 who may be suicidal, homicidal or felt to be a threat to themselves or others
  • Anyone under the age of 18 who may have experienced acute sexual abuse or neglect

When it’s okay to go to urgent care

  • Your child does not appear to have a life threatening condition such as ear or sinus pain, minor allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, rashes, or sore throat
  • Your child has a routine acute illness or injury such as fever, colds, flu, sprains and strains
  • Your child has simple lacerations and scrapes
  • Your child has sustained a head injury but is acting normally and not vomiting
  • Your child has swallowed something and is not have difficulty breathing
  • Your child has Normal headaches or migraines (without numbness, tingling or weakness)
  • Your child has a fracture where the bone is not sticking out

What to do if you’re still unsure

Main Line Health’s urgent care facilities are all staffed with board-certified pediatricians. They are well equipped to determine if your child is too ill for urgent care, in which case they will stabilize them and send him or her to Main Line Health’s emergency department immediately.

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. Urgent care centers are located at Broomall and Exton Square.