Your child's primary care provider should always be your first step when your child is sick. But we know that, sometimes, you can't wait to see their doctor and you've got to quickly decide where to take your child—urgent care or the emergency room?

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

Here are some tips to help you choose the best place to go when your child is sick:

When to call for a primary care visit

Your child's doctor can help you treat and manage some illness right at home, or they're able to see you for a same-day appointment—in-person or virtually. Call you child's doctor if they are experiencing:

  • Allergic reactions (mild)
  • Colds
  • Colic
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Dizziness
  • Ear infection
  • Fever
  • Insect bite
  • Mild stomach pain
  • Minor animal bites
  • Minor burns
  • Minor head injury
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

After you talk with your child's doctor or pediatrician, they may refer you to a follow-up visit, a telemedicine appointment or suggest you take your child to the emergency department (ED). No matter the next steps, they'll be able to help you know what to do.

When to take your child to urgent care

An urgent care center can help you treat your child if their doctor's office is closed and you can't reach them for advice.

Reasons to take your child to urgent care include:

  • Asthma
  • Coughs, colds and sore throats
  • Cuts or minor gashes
  • Dehydration
  • Ear or sinus pain
  • Fever, cold, flu or sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Minor fractures (with no bone sticking out)
  • Minor head injuries (your child is acting normally and not vomiting)
  • Minor cuts and scrapes
  • Minor rashes
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Normal headaches or migraines
  • Pink eye
  • Removal of ticks, splinters, hooks and other sharp objects
  • Skin abscesses (small pockets of pus that are usually caused by infection)
  • Sports injuries
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections

If your child swallowed something but isn't having difficulty breathing, you can also take them to an urgent care for treatment.

Main Line Health urgent care centers are located at Broomall and Exton Square. Our urgent care facilities are all staffed with board-certified pediatricians. They're well equipped to determine if your child is too ill for urgent care, in which case they will stabilize them and send them to an emergency department immediately. 

When to take your child to the emergency room

Always take your child to the ER for serious and life-threatening injuries or illnesses that require immediate attention, which can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever in infants younger than 2 months
  • Unconsciousness
  • Allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
  • Animal bite
  • Blunt or penetrating eye injury
  • Broken bone
  • Chest pain
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Deep cut or open wound
  • Fainting
  • Severe bleeding, burns or head injury

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

If a child under the age of 18 may have experienced acute sexual abuse or neglect, may be suicidal, homicidal or felt to be a threat to themselves or others, they should be taken to the emergency department.

If your child has swallowed something and has difficulty breathing, you should call 911 immediately.

If your child has ingested something you believe is dangerous, call Poison Control first. They can 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.