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Pediatrician, Urgent Care or Emergency Department?

There’s nothing that pulls at your heartstrings more than seeing your child sick or injured.

At some point, childhood sickness and injuries are inevitable as infants, toddlers and tweens careen rambunctiously from one activity to the next or come home from daycare or school with a newly acquired cold or flu bug.

As a pediatrician, parents regularly ask me for guidance on whether it’s best to take their child to urgent care or the emergency department.

First things first: In any life-threatening emergency -- such as a traumatic injury or if your child is having breathing difficulties -- call 911 immediately. I cannot stress this enough. If you do not feel you are able to transport your child safely to the hospital or doctor’s office, don’t hesitate to call 911.

As for urgent care versus emergency department, step one would be to call your pediatrician’s office. Your pediatrician can then recommend the best course of action for your child’s symptoms.

By definition, emergency departments are intended for more serious issues that are best treated in a hospital setting. Your pediatrician can help you assess the situation and guide you to a nearby emergency department that will best be able to take care of your child.

For non life-threatening issues, such as fevers, sore throats, simple sprains or strains, mild allergic reactions and minor cuts, your best resource is going to be your pediatrician.

With same day appointments available, Hoag Medical Group pediatricians have extensive pediatric training and experience you can count on. Our pediatricians will take care of the physical and emotional well being of your children.

If your child is experiencing a medical issue in the evening, overnight or on the weekend that requires immediate attention, but isn’t serious enough for a visit to an emergency department, urgent care centers can provide your child with close-to-home access to outstanding doctors and nurses.

Hoag recently opened Hoag Urgent Care Irvine – Sand Canyon, bringing its network of expertly staffed urgent care centers throughout Orange County to ten locations. The Hoag Urgent Care locations are a key part of the hospital’s commitment to provide residents top-quality medical care apart from an emergency department setting.

When in doubt, call your pediatrician. We are here to provide our patients and their parents with the support and guidance they require during all stages of a child's life.

Dr. Julie Palmisano specializes in pediatrics with Hoag Medical Group.

Meet the Author

Julie Omid Palmisano, MD, FAAP

Specialty: Pediatrics

Like many pediatricians, being a parent has helped Dr. Palmisano relate better to her young patients. She chose to go into medicine to help people and was inspired by how doctors treated her grandfather when he underwent heart surgery when she was 15.“ I love pediatrics,” Dr. Palmisano says. “As pediatricians, we are not only helping children, but also partnering with parents. It’s wonderful to be able to follow the entire families through the various stages of their children’s lives.” View Bio [+]