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When your child becomes sick or injured, it can be difficult to tell how serious it is. You may not know if you should choose an emergency department or urgent care.
We’ve outlined the times when you should seek urgent or emergency care, the differences between them and how you can best prepare for the next time your child gets sick or injured.Download the guide
If you are not concerned for a life-threating emergency and unsure about where to go, Children's Hospital Colorado's Alison Brent, MD, advises parents to first call their child's primary care provider (PCP). Your PCP should be able to advise you on the best course of action.
If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
(These are guidelines; if at any point you believe your child needs immediate emergency care, take him or her to the closest emergency department or call 911):
(These are guidelines; if at any point you believe your child needs immediate emergency care, take him or her to the emergency room or call 911):
Children's Colorado's urgent care facilities are all staffed with board-certified pediatricians. They are well equipped to determine if your child is too ill for urgent care, in which case they will stabilize them and send him or her to a Children's Colorado emergency department immediately.
Additionally, you can call Children's Colorado's ParentSmart Healthline™ at 720-777-0123 to speak with a registered nurse 24/7 who can help guide you to the best location. Children's Colorado also has a free mobile app with helpful resources on assessing your child's illness.
Whether you take your child to a Children's Colorado emergency department or urgent care facility, your child will see a board-certified pediatrician or advanced level provider (nurse practitioner or physician assistant).
Our emergency locations are staffed sites 24 hours a day, seven days a week with physicians who are board certified and/or eligible in pediatric emergency medicine.
Children are not small adults. Even in an urgent or emergency situation, pediatric expertise matters. Here’s why:
Pediatric emergency medicine physicians have three additional years of pediatric emergency training compared to general emergency medicine physicians and pediatricians. In addition to making kids (and their families) feel more secure and at ease in emergency situations, their skills in pediatrics allow pediatric emergency medicine physicians to be more comfortable with both the common and not-so-common pediatric emergency medical conditions. This allows them to make the proper diagnosis faster and with fewer and less invasive tests, which can make the process quicker and usually less painful.
Children are developing and changing every day. They have faster heart rates, growing bones and smaller airways. Kids also respond to medical tests, drugs and treatments differently, making specialized equipment and testing critical. While other emergency departments have equipment needed to diagnose and treat the general adult population, Children’s Colorado has specialized equipment that is designed for children and teens – and we have teams who know how to use it.
And unlike other hospitals and urgent care locations, we partner with your child's pediatrician or your family doctor to make sure we work together and communicate about your child’s care.
Emergency departments at Children's Colorado are equipped to handle the most serious injuries and illnesses. (Children's Hospital Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is the only dedicated pediatric regional trauma center in our seven-state region, handling the most challenging emergencies.)
Emergency departments are located in hospitals, which means they accept ambulances, may have a helipad, and can admit your child to an inpatient bed within the hospital, if that becomes necessary. In general, it can be more expensive to go to the emergency department.
There is no difference in the skill level of physicians staffing Children's Colorado's urgent care facilities and some of our emergency departments. We prepare our urgent care facilities to help kids who need medical attention for non-life-threatening conditions, like an ear infection or broken arm.
Going to urgent care in a non-emergency situation can help ensure that our emergency departments do not become overwhelmed with patients who do not need as many emergency resources. This can help all kids get the level of care they need, faster.
Whether you go to a Children's Colorado urgent care or emergency department, it will be specially equipped to handle the unique needs of your child.
Because our emergency departments are equipped with the most high-tech, life-saving equipment, as well as a larger, supportive staff, it is usually more expensive to be seen in the emergency department.
We accept all payers (insurance providers) available in Colorado. Learn more about billing at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Many parents are concerned about the cost of taking their child to the emergency department or urgent care. To prepare, make sure you know your benefits and make sure you know the difference between your co-pay for urgent care and emergency care. If you are unsure, call your insurance company and speak with a representative who should be able to explain your benefits, costs and co-pays.
Did you know you can set up Medical ID on your child's smartphone to give first responders access to your child's health information in case of an emergency? Watch this video learn how to set this feature up on your kid's phone.