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OK, so where should I go?

August 11, 2018

That considered, two common summer injuries will likely need to be treated in an emergency room, doctors said: badly broken bones, or bones that look out of place, and long or deep wounds. (For very young kids, doctors advise parents call their pediatrician first, if possible. Even after hours, many offices do respond with guidance.)

If you bring your child to an urgent care clinic for either of these conditions, you will likely be referred to an emergency room anyway, said Dr. Elizabeth Powell, an emergency medicine physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“Many urgent cares can’t do suturing, so it just takes a lot of time, and parents don’t need to have waited in two places.” And, Powell adds, “if you’ve got a broken bone that needs to have the alignment fixed, that can’t be done in an urgent care,” either.

On the other hand, some urgent care centers do stitches for less serious cuts, and some also treat less severe bone breaks.

Still, if you make an emergency room your first stop, expect to wait a bit for help.

“Most ERs are staffed by general ER doctors,” said Nozicka, the local emergency care physician. “They see all comers, so they’re not very efficient. Unless you have a true life-threatening emergency, you’re not going to be seen right away.”

Emergency rooms, which, like urgent care centers, won’t have your child’s medical history, also get “one shot at you,” Nozicka said. As a result, emergency physicians tend to rule things out and often won’t make a diagnosis. In the process, he said, “They tend to use imaging more than usual, and they also tend to order a lot of labs, which makes your visit longer, and which makes your visit less pleasant, especially if you’re a child.”

Translation: higher costs, even though 97 percent of children in Illinois are insured.

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