Sometimes you'll know right away if your child needs quick medical care. Other times, it's hard to be sure. And if you do, should you go to the ER, call your doctor, or visit an urgent care center? These guidelines can help. When to Call 911 For a serious emergency, call 911. Some situations are so serious that you need the help of trained medical personnel on the way to the hospital. Call 911 if your child: isn't breathing or is turning blue is unconscious after a fall is having a seizure has a serious allergic reaction has a broken bone that sticks out through the skin took an unknown amount of medicine and is now hard to rouse is choking has a large cut that won't stop bleeding When to Go to the Emergency Department An ER (emergency room) — also called an emergency department (ED) — can handle many serious problems. They are ready for life-threatening illnesses and injuries at any time of the day or night. Go to the ER if your child has: trouble breathing unusual sleepiness or confusion a stiff neck and a fever a continuous fast heartbeat ingested a poison, drug, or unknown substance a head injury and is vomiting an eye injury a serious burn When to Call Your Health Care Provider Call your primary care provider's office with any questions or non-urgent health concerns. They can help you decide what steps to take and how. Call for problems such as: a fever ear pain a sore throat belly pain vomiting or diarrhea a headache that doesn't go away possible dehydration rash wheezing a lasting cough Calling your child's regular provider for these kinds of concerns supports "continuity of care" (always seeing a provider who knows you and your child). What Can Be Treated at an Urgent Care Center? What if you can't get to your provider's office or it's after hours and the office is not open? Then, consider getting medical care at an urgent care center. Urgent care centers can manage same problems as your regular health care provider. These centers also can provide services like X-rays, stitches, and splints. Other problems they can treat include: simple bone injuries minor burns cuts splinter removal sprains and other sports injuries minor animal bites fever belly pain vomiting or diarrhea What About Telemedicine? Kids can be seen for many minor injuries and illnesses is through a "visit" to a health provider using your phone or computer. This is called telemedicine or telehealth. Through an app on your phone, you can talk to a provider face-to-face — and the provider can see you and your child. Your regular health care provider or health system may provide telemedicine services. Consider telemedicine when your child has: rashes minor cuts or burns pinkeye (conjunctivitis) colds fever mild allergic reactions vomiting diarrhea Whether your child got care in an ER, at an urgent care center, or through a telemedicine visit, follow up with your primary care provider afterward. That way, your provider has the most up-to-date information about your child and can continue any needed follow-up care. Back to Articles Related Articles Going to the Emergency Room Knowing what to expect when you need to take your child to the emergency room can help make it a little less stressful. Read More What You Need to Know in an Emergency In an emergency, it's hard to think clearly about your kids' health information. Here's what important medical information you should have handy, just in case. Read More Telehealth Telehealth is changing health care. Find out how things like video doctor visits can benefit you and your family. Read More First Aid & Safety Center Boo-boos, bug bites, and broken bones - oh my! Here's your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about how to keep kids safe. Read More About First Aid Guides Whether it's a medical emergency or minor injury, we've got the first-aid info you need. Read More Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 and under. Read More 5 Ways to Be Prepared for an Allergy Emergency Quick action is essential during a serious allergic reaction. It helps to remind yourself of action steps so they become second nature if there's an emergency. Here's what to do. Read More Knowing Your Child's Medical History In an emergency, health care professionals will have many questions about a patient's medical history. It's easy to compile this information now, and it could save critical minutes later. Read More First-Aid Kit A well-stocked first-aid kit, kept in easy reach, is a necessity in every home. Learn where you should keep a kit and what to put in it. Read More 5 Ways to Prepare for an Allergy Emergency Being prepared for an allergy emergency will help you, your child, and other caregivers respond in the event of a serious reaction. Read More How to Handle an Emergency In a medical emergency, kids can be heroes just by calling for help. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Choosing and Instructing a Babysitter One of your most important tasks as a parent is finding a qualified babysitter. Here are some essential tips on choosing and instructing a babysitter. Read More Dealing With Sports Injuries You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them. Read More Dealing With an Asthma Flare-Up Asthma flare-ups, or attacks, can be handled, but it's even better if you can prevent them from happening. Find out how to deal with flare-ups. Read More Preventing Children's Sports Injuries Participation in sports can teach kids sportsmanship and discipline. But sports also carry the potential for injury. Here's how to protect your kids. Read More Teaching Your Child How to Use 911 Teaching your child how to use 911 in an emergency could be one of the simplest - and most important - lessons you'll ever share. Read More Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is that when treated properly, anaphylaxis can be managed. Read More Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated. Read More Stitches Most kids need stitches at one time or another to help a cut heal properly. Read this article to learn all about stitches and what they do. Read More Burns Burns, especially scalds from hot water and liquids, are some of the most common childhood accidents. Minor burns often can be safely treated at home, but more serious burns require medical care. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.