Taking Baby To Urgent Care Tips
It is unlikely that you will make it through your baby’s first year of life without taking baby to urgent care. You will more than likely find yourself facing at least one illness that requires an unplanned trip to the doctor. In a perfect world, this illness will strike mid-morning, during the week, when you have no other plans than sitting around enjoying your baby.
Life generally does not happen that way. Your baby’s illness may strike in the middle of the night, on a weekend, or some other time when your regular pediatrician is not available. Or maybe illness isn’t the issue, but your child receives an injury.
No matter what the issue, you will probably find yourself frantically trying to pack up your baby at some point and taking baby to urgent care. Urgent care visits are stressful for both you and your baby. You can make the trip less painful by keeping some tips in mind before you ever leave the house.
1. Take Note of Red Flags
Your first step in deciding what to do in the case of an illness or injury is determining if you should be taking baby to urgent care. You should always follow your instincts and it makes sense to err on the side of caution. Here are some red flags that indicate you should not wait until you can make an appointment with your regular pediatrician:
- A fall that results in hitting the head
- Extreme fatigue in your baby, particularly difficulty in waking
- Temperature above 100.4 degrees F, taken rectally, that doesn’t respond to treatment
- Temperature below 97.8 degrees F, taken rectally
- A deep cut, puncture wound or any suspicion of broken bones
- Swelling without an explanation
- Any swelling on your baby’s soft spot
- Breathing problems such as rapid, shallow breathing or appearing to struggle to breath
2. Decide If an Emergency Room Is a Better Choice
If your baby is experiencing a true emergency, whether related to illness or injury, head to the closest emergency room. Hopefully, you know where the closest emergency room is, and how to get there. If not, you may want to make a practice drive one day when there is no emergency.
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When your baby is very sick but stable, you may want to consider a pediatric emergency room. If the pediatric emergency room is within comfortable driving distance, you may find both you and your child are more comfortable with the treatment and atmosphere available there rather than a general hospital emergency room.
Symptoms of ear infection, croup, sore throat, or other illnesses that make your baby very uncomfortable but are not life-threatening are best suited for urgent care. Taking baby to urgent care for these issues can get her back on track to feeling great and without risking complications that can develop from delaying treatment.
Whether you decide on taking baby to urgent care or the emergency room, you should call your pediatrician’s office as well. If you are facing a true emergency you can, of course, call later when your baby is stabilized, but your pediatrician will want to know what is going on. If things get worse and your baby needs to be admitted to the hospital he can recommend one where he has privileges, and even if your baby simply requires a prescription and is back home in a few hours, the information should be added to your baby’s regular health chart.
3. Stay Calm, but Be Prepared
It can be hard to do, but remaining calm in the time leading up to and when taking baby to urgent care can greatly affect how your child reacts to the visit. If you can remain calm and reassuring, your baby will be more likely to accept this change in routine.
Of course, you don’t expect a sick or injured child to be on her best behavior, but keeping her calm makes it easier for the healthcare provider to obtain accurate vitals, better assess your baby and otherwise perform a complete examination.
Take a few minutes before taking baby to urgent care to take some calming breaths. Have a glass of water and a quick snack if it has been a while since you have eaten. Make sure you have what you need, including insurance cards, a pen, and some paper or a small notebook for taking notes, a little cash, glasses if you wear them and your phone. If it is close to the time for a meal or you think it will help soothe your baby you should feed her before heading out. Make sure she has a fresh diaper. If your baby has a particular stuffed animal or other comfort objects, be sure to have that on hand as well.
4. Try To Come Alone
Emergencies don’t often crop up at the most convenient time, but if possible leave anyone extra at home or with a sitter. When taking your baby to urgent care, try to come alone. It is a lot to expect siblings to sit quietly in an urgent care. While you may be in and out quickly, you may have to wait a bit, and you may have to head to the pharmacy when you are done.
Having other kids with you when taking baby to urgent care also makes it harder to focus on your sick child. If you are distracted it can be hard to accurately describe any symptoms to the healthcare provider and it can also be difficult to focus and remember any instructions you receive for follow-up care.
If you have a spouse available you may think having two adults present will make the situation easier, but having one stay home with the other siblings makes more sense. Let the other kids stay as close to a normal routine as possible so when you and your baby return from the urgent care things are calm, rather than everyone clambering for food or attention or being so exhausted they are fighting.
5. Take a Minute to Write Down Essential Medical Information
Ideally, you will have a paper on hand with your insurance information, your baby’s current pediatricians name and phone number and an overview of her medical information. This information includes any allergies your baby has, as well as any medication she currently takes. You should also include any significant medical history, such as surgeries, including dates, or reoccur and health problems, such as ear infections.
Having this paper already written up and tucked away makes it easy to have everything at the tip of your fingers when taking baby to urgent care. Simply add a quick background of what your child is currently experiencing and you are ready to go. The urgent care provider will want to know how long your baby has experienced current symptoms and recent eating and drinking behaviors.
If you do not have a basic medical history, including any medications your baby currently takes, already drawn up, take a few minutes to do that before you leave the house. It will be much easier to remember everything when you are sitting at your own home rather than when you are balancing your baby on your knee and trying to fill out endless forms.
6. Trust the Healthcare Provider, but Stand Up for Your Child
Urgent cares often use healthcare providers other than medical doctors. Physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners are fully-trained healthcare providers who you can trust to take care of your baby. You may use a PA or nurse practitioner already, but if not it can be difficult to trust their advice if you are accustomed to working with a medical doctor.
Remember, the healthcare providers you see when taking baby to urgent care see the types of cases you are presenting with daily. They are on the front lines of seeing what health issues are present in your community. They may be able to take one look at your baby and recognize signs of a stomach bug or virus that is going around the neighborhood because they have already seen it ten other times that day.
While you should trust the healthcare provider, you should also assert your rights as a parent. If you know your child is in pain and feel it is being dismissed or minimized, let the healthcare provider know that this behavior is outside your baby’s typical behavior. Some babies are much more stoic than others, and if she acts differently than expected it can be easy to miss symptoms. You know your baby best, and you are her advocate in these situations.
After taking baby to an urgent care trip, whether happy or less than pleased with the care your baby received, follow up with your baby’s pediatrician. It may be as simple as a phone call to fill them in on the diagnosis, or your pediatrician, or the urgent care, may recommend a follow-up exam during normal office hours.