Kids Health Matters: Urgent care vs. emergency room

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Kids Health Matters: Finding urgent care. Registered Nurse Ali Gorman reports during Action News at noon on May 17, 2017. (WPVI)

The boom in urgent care centers in the past few years has given Americans a new option in medical care.

But for parents, it may have created a dilemma - when when does my child need urgent care and when is it time for the emergency room?

Spring sports are in full swing, kids are playing outside and beaches and camps are just weeks away.

But so are accidents and medical mishaps and they never seem to happen when the pediatrician's office is open.

So how can a parent choose between the ER and Urgent care?

Dr. Arun Nadiga at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia gives this rule of thumb...

"If your child is having any trouble talking, walking, or if you feel they're having any trouble interacting with you, that should usually go to the emergency room," he said. "If they're coherent and they didn't lose consciousness, and have a minor trauma, they can come here."

By "here," he means the after-hours urgent care at CHOP's Brandywine Specialty Care Center.

The hospital also offers urgent care at its King of Prussia and Chalfont centers.

Dr. Nadiga says urgent care is designed to ease the backlog of ER cases that don't require emergency care.

Sports injuries are one key area.

"The question of whether my child strained an ankle, or potentially broke an ankle," said Dr. Nadiga.

And if more serious treatment is needed, the center's staff helps parents connect with it.

Dr. Nadiga also says parents should looks for pediatric-specific urgent care, since staffers there specialize in kids.

And they can also their pediatrician's office, for advice on where to go.

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