Should I Take My Child To The Pediatrician Or The ER? Here’s How To Know.

At Westchester Health, we know it’s really hard not to panic when your child has a broken bone, high fever, open wound or is vomiting uncontrollably. In many instances, it would make sense to rush him/her to your local ER. However, there are times when the best course of action is to see your local pediatrician who knows your child and his/her health history. How do you know what to do when? This insightful blog (excerpted here) by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, can help.

When to take your child to the ER

Head straight to the ER if your child:

  • is less than 2 months old and has a fever. Fever is defined as a (rectal) temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • has a broken bone, particularly if there is visible swelling or unevenness/bumps in the injured area (a sign that the broken bone is misaligned)

    Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

  • hits his/her head and appears to pass out or lose consciousness for a few seconds
  • has had a seizure
  • is showing signs of dehydration, such as very dry/cracked lips and mouth, absence of urination for more than 12 hours, lethargy and confusion
  • has heavy, fast breathing, is gasping for air or manages to utter only 2-3 words before taking a breath
  • has gaping cuts on the face, especially younger children who need sedation while the injury is being repaired

Negative consequences of going to the ER

  1. The ER can expose your already sick child to potentially dangerous germs and other infections carried by everyone there in the ER (not just the patients but also the families waiting for the patients to be seen).
  2. ER care is almost always going to be more expensive than going to your own pediatrician.
  3. Emergency departments are, by definition, designed to care for the sickest or most seriously injured patients first, meaning that those with less severe illnesses or injuries will have longer waits.
  4. In an ER, your child is a stranger, but here at Westchester Health, we know your child personally, as well as his/her health history, family history, record of immunizations, risk factors, mental health issues, STDs and any other related health conditions. We strongly feel that this enables us to give more accurate, more informed and more compassionate care.

When to take your child to your pediatrician

Go to the doctor if your child:

  • has fever accompanied by cold symptoms and you suspect it may be the flu
  • maybe has an ear infection—symptoms include drainage from the ear, earache and pulling on the ears
  • has a sore throat with or without white patches on the tonsils, a possible sign of strep infection
  • has pink eye (conjunctivitis)—symptoms include red, inflamed eyes with or without discharge
  • has had a few episodes of vomiting or diarrhea (without blood in the stool) but has no belly pain or signs of dehydration

If you think your child is experiencing a true emergency, call 911 immediately.

For more information on when to take your child to the ER vs. pediatrician, please come see us

Questions? Still unsure of what to do when? We urge you to come in and see one of our pediatricians at Westchester Health. If your child is sick or injured, we will try our very best to see him/her as soon as possible and treat the problem so your child can feel better soon. If we feel your child should indeed go to the ER, or needs to see a specialist, we’ll speed that process along right away. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

Appointment CTA

To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.

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