Parent Guide: When to Take Your Child to a Pediatrician or a Hospital

when to call pediatrician

There are a few nerve-wracking things that come with being a parent, especially when you’re faced with your child getting sick —or worse: having an accident that requires medical attention.

Do you know when to take your child to the pediatrician or the hospital? This article will help you identify when to take your child to the pediatrician and when it may be best practice to take them straight to a hospital for immediate urgent care.


What Does a Pediatrician Do? 

The role of the pediatrician is to provide comprehensive and continuous care for infants and children from birth to adolescence, up until the age of 19 (others up to 21 yrs. old).

A pediatrician doctor typically works in various settings, including private offices, clinics, or hospitals. In some cases, they also give referrals to specialists who can provide more specialized care for certain conditions. Other pediatricians may also have additional specialization in rheumatology, oncology, pulmonology, or nephrology.

Some pediatricians may become involved in research, teaching, or advocacy efforts in addition to their clinical responsibilities. They work with other professionals, including pharmacists, nurses, social workers, and dietitians, to assist families with meeting their children’s health care needs.

What to Look for When Choosing a Pediatrician:

Choosing a pediatric doctor is an important decision. A doctor who’s suitable for you and your family will be someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident. Take some time to look for the right pediatrician for your child. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about their background and experience.

If you are actively searching for a “pediatrician near me”, the following tips may be helpful:


  • Ask friends and family members for recommendations.
  • Look at local listings online or ask your local hospital or clinic if they have an organized list of available pediatricians in the area. You can also search google or bing for “pediatric clinic near me” to find a local pediatrician close by. 
  • Visit websites that provide information about doctors in your area with reviews. Check out the doctor’s credentials and review the services offered on their pediatric website.


When to Call a Pediatrician

Knowing when to go to the pediatrician or when to go to urgent care is imperative. Avoiding unnecessary emergency room trips for you and your child isn’t just about convenience. First, this will prevent your child from exposure to more hospital germs and infections. Second, patients suffering from less severe conditions will likely wait longer in emergency departments since they are meant to treat patients with the most severe conditions first. Furthermore, the cost of ER care is generally higher than that of other healthcare providers. 

Here are the instances when going to a pediatrician is the first choice. 

  • routine medical care (check child development and growth, immunizations)
  • diagnosing and treatment of illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening (colds, cough, constipation, flu, and viral infections)
  • child development concerns, learning disabilities
  • preventive care for healthy children
  • parenting advice (nutrition and healthy eating habits, sleep patterns, and bedtime routines)
  • worries over your child’s exposure to chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, or other contagious diseases.
  • fever (except for babies under two months old)
  • rash, bruise, body pain, and other symptoms that concern you
  • feeding concerns (your child is not eating well)
  • medical prescriptions
  • behavioral concerns
  • a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes that requires ongoing care from a doctor who knows about these conditions in children.


When Should You Go to a Hospital or Emergency Room 

If you think your child may be seriously ill and you don’t know what to do, call 911 immediately or quickly go to an emergency room. The following conditions require immediate medical attention. These are not things that can wait until Monday morning when the pediatrican office opens and time is of utmost importance: 

  • heavy bleeding
  • severe pain in the abdomen
  • fainting, dizziness, or blackouts 
  • coughing up blood
  • serious burns on large areas of the body
  • poisoning or overdose due to drugs
  • intense headaches with nausea and vomiting
  • babies (under two months old) with a fever greater than 100.4°F
  • traumatic sports injuries, automobile accidents, etc. 
  • a head injury that renders them unconscious or unable to talk
  • bone fractures with extreme swelling or protrusion of a bone
  • bluish or purplish skin due to oxygen deprivation (e.g., drowning)
  • if your newborn’s belly is swollen or distended and appears to be hard or firm
  • difficulty breathing/ anaphylaxis due to an asthma attack or severe allergic reaction
  • heart attack signs like breathing difficulties, chest pain, unusual vision changes, difficulty speaking, and feeling numb or tingling in their arms, legs, and face
  • repeatedly vomiting, watery diarrhea, frequent bowel movements with confusion that last longer than a day


ER vs. Urgent Care

The Emergency Room (ER) is typically a hospital-based facility for treating people who have serious injuries or life-threatening medical issues where time is crucial, like heart attacks, strokes, or major accidents.

ERs are better equipped to handle urgent health situations than urgent care facilities. They’re open 24 hours a day and have doctors and other medical professionals on staff who can treat everything from traumatic injuries to anaphylaxis. Hospital emergency rooms are also where people go if they don’t have a primary care physician or need specialized treatment — like an MRI — that urgent care centers can’t provide.

On the other hand, urgent care centers are for illnesses and injuries that aren’t life-threatening but need medical attention right away. These centers treat patients on a walk-in basis without appointments. Urgent care centers can provide most of the same services as an ER if your situation isn’t life-threatening. These situations include wound care, stitches for lacerations, and broken bones that aren’t causing bleeding or deformity (such as ankle sprains). If your child’s pediatrician is not open or you do not yet have a regular doctor, you may have to see an urgent care provider for non-emergency conditions like ear infections and sinus infections.

Here are some instances when urgent care may be appropriate:

  • minor cuts and bruises
  • strains and sprains
  • skin rashes 
  • sunburn or other minor burns
  • bites, scratches, or stings from animals or insects
  • stomach upset and abdominal pain that is not that severe
  • mild allergies and sinus infections
  • sore throat or strep throat
  • urinary tract infections
  • earaches 
  • eye irritations
  • seizures


CMCFresno- Trusted Pediatrics in Fresno, California!

When it comes to your little one’s health, you want the best care possible. But you also want to know that you’re getting the right care for the right reasons. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the differences between an emergency room, a pediatric visit, and an urgent care center. You can save and share this blog to refer back to if you have medical concerns in the future. 

At Children’s Medical Centers Fresno, we provide families with a high level of comfort, compassion, and convenience in pediatric care in Fresno California. Whenever you are looking for quality health care for your children, please do not hesitate to contact our pediatric clinic! Get to know more about our health care team today.