Urgent Care or Emergency Care?
Has something like this ever happened to you? It's a Saturday morning and your child wakes up with a very sore throat and a fever. It's not a medical emergency, but you can't wait until Monday for your doctor's office to open.
This is the gap that urgent care fills. Urgent care clinics (sometimes called walk-in clinics) provide non-emergency medical care when your regular provider is not available. Urgent care is typically open evenings, weekends and holidays. Most urgent care clinics serve patients of all ages. Some, like Seattle Children's new Urgent Care Clinic in Bellevue, specialize in treating children.
Out-of-pocket costs for urgent care are usually less than for an emergency room visit. And like an ER, urgent care is open to all - you don't need to be a current patient. For these reasons, urgent care can also be a smart choice when you need medical care away from home.
So, what conditions can be treated in an urgent care clinic, and when should you go to an emergency room?
First, if your child's illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.
Take your child to urgent care for these conditions: allergies; minor asthma attack; bronchitis; minor burn; colds; coughs; minor cut; dehydration; diarrhea; dizziness; earache or ear infection; fever in children over 2 months; minor head injury without loss of consciousness; insect or dog bite; migraine headache; nausea; pink eye; rash; sore throat; sprain or strain; mild stomach pain; urinary tract infection.
Take your child to an emergency room for these conditions: severe asthma attack; bleeding that won't stop; broken bone; severe burn; severe cut; fainting; fever in infants less than 2 months old; head injury; pneumonia; poisoning; seizure; shock; severe stomach pain; swallowed object.
When you go to urgent care or the emergency room, expect to wait. Other patients with more serious conditions may be treated before you. Bring along items to keep your child content, such as snacks, books, a blanket or a favorite stuffed animal. Older children can listen to music on headphones, play a handheld game or read while they wait.
Before you arrive, explain to your child where you are going and what will happen. Reassure them that you will stay with them the whole time, and that the care they receive will help them feel better.
Prevent Furniture and TV Tip-overs
Children are injured and killed each year when furniture, TVs and appliances tip over on top of them. This can happen to babies and toddlers as they "cruise" along the edges of furniture, or use it to pull themselves up to a standing position. Tip-overs also happen when children try to climb furniture such as bookcases and shelves. These accidents can be prevented. Secure furniture and appliances like stoves to the wall or the floor.
Anti-tip brackets should be included when you buy these items; if not, purchase them at a hardware store. Place TVs on sturdy furniture and push them back as far as possible. Teach your child that furniture should never be used as a climbing toy.
Use our Safety Checklist for Home to learn more ways to keep your little ones safe.
Bring Along the Booster Seat
Booster seats save lives and prevent injuries. They raise a child so the lap and shoulder belt fit correctly. When children travel anywhere, their booster seat should go with them - even when they're getting a ride to practice with a friend, or a quick lift to school. Parents may be tempted to skip the booster seat when it's "just a short trip." But in fact, most car crashes happen near home, and motor vehicle crashes are the single largest killer of children ages 4 to 8.
Booster seats reduce a child's risk of injury by 59 percent compared to when only a seatbelt is used. And booster seats are the law: Washington state requires them for children younger than 8, unless they are 4'9" or taller.
Be consistent. If you allow your child to "bend the rules" and not use a booster seat when traveling with others, they may resist using one in your own car. When giving a ride to another child, ask the parents for their booster seat.
Download our booster seat flyer (PDF) or visit the Washington State Booster Seat Coalition website to learn more.
Heads Up on Sports Concussions
A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or a blow to the head or other part of the body. Concussions are fairly common in youth sports. A child might get a concussion from a fall on the basketball court, a hard tackle in football, a collision on the soccer or lacrosse field, or a crash from a bike or a skateboard.
Concussions can be tricky to detect. They can occur even when the impact seems mild. And sometimes, signs don't appear until a few days after the injury.
Know the possible signs. It's important to know that most concussions happen without loss of consciousness. Your child may have a headache, balance problems, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, or blurred or double vision. They may appear dazed, stunned, confused, sluggish, hazy or groggy.
Check to see if they move clumsily, answer questions more slowly than usual, or are extra sensitive to light or noise. If you suspect a concussion, seek medical care right away and make your child rest their body and mind.
Children who have a concussion must get cleared by a healthcare provider before returning to sports or any physical activity. Returning too soon - while the brain is still healing - increases the chances of having a second concussion, which can cause lasting symptoms or permanent brain damage. It's better to miss a few weeks than risk a serious brain injury.
If your child has ever had a concussion, alert their coaches. To help prevent concussions, discuss safety and sportsmanship rules with your child and their coaches. Also be sure your child always wears properly fitting safety gear.
Get more answers to your concussion questions by visiting our sports concussion pages.
Water and Milk are Best
All the new drink choices out there may sound "healthy," but plain water and low-fat milk are still best for kids. Nothing quenches thirst and hydrates the body better than water. Milk is a great source of calcium and helps build healthy bones.
When packing your child's school lunch, add a thermos of cold water or milk. If your child buys lunch at school, help them to avoid sugary "vitamin" drinks and soda. Teach them why to choose low-fat milk or water instead.
In small amounts, 100% fruit juice is fine. Even better is eating whole fruits. They have fewer calories and more fiber than juice. If you do give juice, add a little water to 4 ounces of juice to make it go further.
What Is a Hernia?
A hernia is an abnormal bulge or swelling under the skin of the belly. It happens when tissue pokes through a weak spot or hole in the wall of the abdomen. Some babies are born with belly button hernias, which often go away on their own. The most common type is an inguinal hernia, which appears on one or both sides of the groin area. Hernias are quite common among children, as are surgeries to repair them. If you think your child has a hernia, make an appointment with their doctor, who will decide if surgery is needed.
If your child has a lump that comes on suddenly, feels hard, looks red and causes severe pain, get medical care right away.
Learn more about umbilical hernias and inguinal hernias.
Solving Sleep Problems
Is your family getting a good night's sleep? At some point, all parents have trouble getting babies to sleep through the night, toddlers to stay in their own beds and older kids to go to bed at all. Quality sleep is a must for overall good health.
If your child is having sleep problems, seek advice from your child's doctor, family, friends and books. There's lots of advice out there! Then, pick a method that works for you and your partner and give it a try. Be patient and be consistent. Change takes time. Talk with your child's doctor if you're dealing with more serious sleep problems such as apnea, insomnia, night terrors or frequent sleepwalking. Remember to never shake your baby.
Read Seattle Mama Doc's blog entry called Helping Your Baby Sleep: Follow Your Instincts and Follow Through and check out our sleep disorder resources.