When your child isn’t feeling well and your pediatrician’s office has closed, you’re left with a decision: Can this wait until the morning, or does my child need to be seen right away?
Dr. Kym Selden, a pediatrician with Novant Health Pediatrics Lake Norman, says the answer isn’t always clear-cut. However, there are some general tips to help you make your decision.
Urgent care may suffice
Fortunately, most cases don’t warrant a trip to the emergency room. “If your child is not experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms, an urgent care is likely your best option,” Selden said. “A good rule of thumb is that if it’s something you’d take your child to their pediatrician for during normal daytime hours, and you can’t wait until the next day, a pediatric urgent care is the appropriate place to seek care.”
Urgent care centers offer a cost-saving alternative to the emergency room for injuries and illnesses that do not require 911. Novant Health has two pediatric urgent care locations in the Charlotte area, one at 445 S. Kings Drive in Midtown, and another at 8450 Park Road in the Quail Hollow neighborhood. Both offer evening and weekend hours.
“During sick visits, I give parents red flags to look for so they know what to do if ‘X’, ‘Y’, or ‘Z’ happens later on,” Selden added. “It helps to have a road map if the child’s symptoms change or worsen.”
Expanding access to convenient care
In 2018, Novant Health partnered with GoHealth Urgent Care, one of the country's largest and fastest growing urgent care companies, to create a large network of urgent care centers across North Carolina. Phase one of the partnership will include at least 15 clinics in greater Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care will open its first urgent care centers in Winston-Salem in early 2019, followed by a number of new and renovated clinics in the greater Charlotte area over the next 12 to 18 months. The urgent cares will be equipped to care for everyday illnesses and non-life threatening injuries and include on-site laboratory and X-Ray services.
When the ‘ER’ is the right call
“If your child is not breathing, is in severe pain or is nonresponsive, call 911 right away,” Selden said.
There are other warning signs to watch for, Selden said, that would require emergency medical attention. These signs include one or more of the following:
· Breathing that is labored or fast, or if the child has trouble breathing.
· Severe or persistent vomiting, or vomiting blood (red or brown) or bile (green).
· Bleeding that will not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
· Pain that is not relieved with over the counter pain medications.
· Fainting, loss of consciousness or a seizure.
· Confusion or vomiting after a head injury.
When it comes to fevers, the answer isn’t the same for everyone. A fever 100.4 degrees and above in an infant less than three months of age is considered an emergency, but it’s less of a concern for older babies and children. Anytime you are concerned that the fever could be part of a more serious illnesses (e.g., associated with headache, rash, significant coughing, sore throat, vomiting, etc.), you should seek medical care.
“Trust your gut,” Selden adds. “If you think your child needs to be seen immediately, don’t hesitate.”
The pediatric emergency department at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital is staffed round-the-clock with board-certified pediatric emergency medicine physicians to care for the most serious illnesses and injuries.
Peace of mind
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when to take your child to the emergency room, and that’s why Novant Health has a 24-hour nurse care line to help you decide what to do next. If your pediatrician’s office is unavailable, Selden encourages parents to call Novant Health’s Care Connections line to determine what action you should take for your child. The Care Connections line also serves adults.
Care Connections works as an extension of Novant Health’s primary care clinics, providing daytime and after-hours support that allows you to speak to a nurse over the phone, free of charge. After describing your child’s symptoms and history, a nurse will help you decide the best course of action to take.
“No matter what, someone is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to help you,” Selden said. “As scary as a sick child can be, know that we are set up to support you.”
If you are in North or South Carolina and would like to speak to a Care Connections nurse, call the toll-free number at any time. A list of Care Connections numbers is available here.