If you're a parent, you've probably been faced with this scenario: Your child comes to you in the evening or a weekend day with a fever and hacking cough. Is it a cold or an infection or something worse?
Your child's doctor's office is closed. You could wait until morning or Monday, but taking your child to a medical professional now could make you and your child feel better.
Your doctor should be your first call if your child of any age is sick. But where do you go when your doctor is not available? When your child needs stiches after-hours? Or when your teenager sprains an ankle at a weekend playoff game?
Urgent Care is kind of like a safety net for parents when a child's doctor isn't in, and the symptoms aren't severe enough for an emergency room visit. Remember, though, that if your child is younger than 2, it's recommended that you see your pediatrician or go to a hospital with concerns.
Many urgent care centers are open nights and weekends. Some are even open 24 hours. Plus, you don't need an appointment. Here is what an urgent care doctor says is important to know about bringing a child to urgent care.
"For most routine conditions such as a sprained ankle, sore throat, or minor cuts and bruises, urgent care facilities can provide the same treatment at times when a primary care physician may not be available, and without the cost of a trip to the ER," Concentra Chief Medical Officer W. Tom Fogarty, M.D., said.
Concentra operates more than 320 urgent care clinics across the nation. Concentra physicians treat illnesses, injuries (including broken bones) or routine health problems that call for immediate attention and treatments. However, urgent care is not designed to treat severe illness or trauma. It also does not provide long term management of disease like childhood diabetes or asthma.
"Urgent care is a great option for common medical conditions, things like sinus infections, broken bones, and minor scrapes – those conditions that need treatment but are not life-threatening or chronic," Fogarty said.
"Urgent care is not a substitute for a primary care physician, but rather bridges the gap between a family doctor and the ER. And at Concentra, we can share information with a patient's primary doctor so they have the most up-to-date information on your health, and can follow up later."
You can take your child to urgent care for respiratory problems, headaches, sprains, throat infections, common cold, fever, cuts and burns, minor fractures, muscle strains and sprains, infections, cough, animal bites, insect bites, and other conditions. Most urgent care centers also have private procedure rooms and may have X-ray equipment. Urgent care staff can also write prescriptions.
They have on-site labs for quick strep tests, rapid flu tests, or other blood work. Your child can even get a tetanus shot.
And does your kid's annual sports physical creep up on you? Many urgent care centers offer sports and work physicals as well as work-related physicals for the older kids starting a first job.
What should you expect at urgent care centers?
- Evening and weekend hours – Some are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- No appointments needed – Some offer appointments for physicals
- Shorter wait times – Understandably, in the ER, patients with minor injuries are made to wait while those with life-threatening emergencies are treated.
- Savings – Often less expensive than the emergency room
- Treatment for a wide range of illnesses and injuries – That are not life-threatening
- Staffed by doctors, physician assistants, and nurses – Clinics are staffed by the same licensed professionals found in other health care facilities.
However, it also is important to understand that urgent care should not replace your child's doctor. Urgent care does not maintain the same medical history a doctor would. It is usually recommended that a parent first make a call to the child's doctor office if possible. And always remember to follow-up with your child's doctor after an urgent care visit.
The next time you are worried about your child's fever, you know where to turn.
When urgent care is right for you, consider an in-network urgent care center. Humana-owned Concentra Urgent Care centers as well as other in-network centers are available as an urgent care option for Humana members. Many centers offer convenient walk-in appointments with extended hours. Use the Physician Finder Plus tool on humana.com to locate a Concentra Urgent Care center or other in-network provider near you.