Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room
December 23, 2015 Melissa Bauman



It’s two days before Christmas just before bedtime, and the giggles you hear as your two children are playing together by the Christmas tree are suddenly interrupted by crying. “Mommy, Jacob is bleeding!” is shouted before you arrive on the scene. Your three year old boy is sitting on the floor by the fireplace, and as you scoop up the injured little one, your six year old daughter says, “I told him to stop pulling on his stocking, but he didn’t, and that stocking holder thingie hit his head.” Going to the emergency room is not how you wanted to spend your evening, and Jacob seems fine now that he’s stopped crying and pressure has stopped the bleeding, but the wound on his forehead is obviously open and needs to be closed. What other options are there?

Of course it’s always best to try to see a child’s own doctor for any illness or injury, but their offices are not always open late. Some pediatricians have office hours on Saturday, and some of them do have the ability to repair wounds with glue or suture. Those extended hours appointments often fill up quickly though, so if you’re not lucky enough to snag one, the remaining options are going to the emergency room or visiting an urgent care clinic.

A trip to the emergency room is often expensive and time consuming, and it’s unpredictable as to how long the entire experience will take. The waiting room may be full or empty, and the most critical cases are seen first. During the colder months around the holidays, waiting rooms are often packed with sick kids their worried parents.  If your child is totally stable other than a laceration or a fever, it could be a couple of hours or it could be four or five hours before medical care is delivered. It’s not much fun for kids or parents to spend hours in a waiting room.

When injuries and illnesses happen when it’s not convenient to see your child’s regular doctor, an urgent care clinic can help bridge the gap. Since urgent care has become readily available, parents have a reasonable alternative to spending hours in the emergency room. Again, it is best to have children treated by practitioners who are comfortable in pediatrics, so care must be taken to select the right urgent care for your child, but the experience can be much better and faster than emergency care. Minor injuries and illnesses can easily be treated in an urgent care setting with minimal wait times and they have all the tools needed to repair a laceration, check for strep throat and flu, diagnose an ear infection, and provide reassurance that the child is going to be fine. Then you can go back home again quickly to enjoy the happy sounds of your kids enjoying childhood and the holidays.

Special thanks to our guest writer Dr. Kristi Whitenton for sharing this with us today!


  1. Jing 4 years ago

    Hi Urgentcarekids,

    Thanks for posting this article..
    Parents easily get worried most especially when it comes to their kids. Urgent care is applicable when primary care provider is not available and going to an emergency room is not that necessary for the condition. This article will helps parents to be guided on what to do when similar problem arise.

  2. Lillian Schaeffer 4 years ago

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that urgent care is a good way to get medical attention when you can see your regular doctor. I had always wondered what the difference between the emergency room and urgent care is, and it’s something I decided to figure out before I needed to use one of them. I’ll definitely keep in mind that an emergency room visit should be reserved for emergency situations, as less serious injuries will take longer to get taken care of. Thanks for the great post!

  3. Charles 2 years ago

    Thanks for this information guide. It’s so easy to assume that because kids are more fragile than any serious ailment might be a life-threatening condition. But unless it’s a true emergency, if you can’t see your regular doctor, go to urgent care.

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