Cincinnati Children's Blog

Urgent Care or Emergency Room: How to Decide Where to Take Your Sick Child

Urgent Care or Emergency Room: How to Decide Where to Take Your Sick Child


Children with serious or life-threatening injuries or illnesses should be taken to the Emergency Room.

If your child’s injury or illness is not life-threatening, but needs attention quickly and your pediatrician’s office is closed, Urgent Care is most likely the place to go.


It is helpful to remember that going to Urgent Care is similar to your physician’s office, with a few added services. Please keep in mind that Urgent Care is not the ER and is not staffed for life-threatening emergencies.

Here are some of the most common things we examine and treat at Urgent Care:

  • Simple lacerations and wounds
  • Fractures and injuries to arms, legs, fingers and toes
  • Ear aches, runny noses, cough and fevers
  • Common pediatric illnesses such as mild asthma attacks (cough and mild wheezing), stomach flu, diarrhea, vomiting, rashes and strep throat
  • Minor burns

Cincinnati Children’s has five Urgent Care locations:

You can check current estimated wait times at all of our Urgent Care centers online.

If you bring your child to one of our urgent care centers and our physician feels your child needs to go to the Emergency Department, a transport team will be called so medically trained professionals can accompany you and your child to our main hospital.


Life-threatening emergencies should be handled in the Emergency Room (ER), and a call to 911 is the best way to get there. Please don’t try to take your child to the ER yourself.

Life-threatening emergencies include:

  • Breathing difficulties (including severe asthma attacks where the child is wheezing too much to count to ten or a baby is wheezing too much to drink or nurse)
  • Severe trauma
  • Seizures
  • Allergic reactions
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Broken bone, if bone is sticking our of skin
  • Severe burns

Cincinnati Children’s has two full-service ERs:


If you feel your child needs to be seen by a doctor, it is always best to call your child’s primary care physician first; he or she will direct you to the appropriate level of care. If you feel like you don’t have time to wait for a call-back from the physician on call, you should call 911 for help and a ride to the ER.

For more information on where to take your child, or to find urgent care centers and emergency rooms in your area, visit our website.

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