If your child gets sick or has a non-life threatening injury that needs immediate attention, it’s best to take her to your regular pediatrician’s office rather than consulting an online telemedicine service, going to an urgent care center or to a clinic inside a store, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated this week.
Your child’s regular pediatrician will know your child’s full medical history, have adequate training and equipment for working with children, and be able to provide follow-up care over the long-term and refer your child to specialists if needed, the AAP said. Urgent care centers, retail-based clinics and telemedicine services are often not set up to offer that kind of comprehensive and child-appropriate care, the AAP said.
Even so, the AAP recognized that many families are using urgent care centers and other healthcare alternatives. These options can be more convenient because they’re often accessible outside of regular doctors’ hours, offer consultations without an appointment, and may be cheaper than a visit to your pediatrician’s office. Moreover, some families don’t have a regular doctor (if that’s you, it’s a good idea to look for one!).
Doctors need to make it easier for families to access care when they need it, for example by extending opening hours, the AAP said. If you do take your child to an urgent care center or a healthcare provider other than your regular pediatrician, that location should communicate with your doctor about what happened, and your doctor should provide any needed follow-up, according to the academy’s recommendations.
If your child is younger than 2, the AAP recommends strongly against consulting retail clinics and telemedicine providers not connected with your doctor because they may lack important pediatric expertise.
If you’re unsure about what to do if your pediatrician is unavailable, try asking your doctor for recommendations about the best urgent care center or other alternative to use.
Urgent care is not the same as emergency care. For life threatening problems such as a serious injury, allergic reaction or difficulty breathing, go to a hospital emergency room. Check out BabyCenter’s advice on how to tell if your baby needs emergency care.
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