In a perfect world, if your child were to get sick with a common cold or something worse, you would simply bring your child to their pediatrician. However, if you do not have a primary care physician established, or your child’s doctor does not have an appointment available, an urgent care is a great option.

when to bring child to urgent careUrgent care centers are less expensive than emergency rooms, and often have extended hours. Not to mention, they typically accept walk-ins or same-day visits for those unfortunate, immediate situations.

Parents often wonder if an urgent care is the appropriate alternative for when their little one needs same-day medical treatment; in many cases it is. Read on for medical conditions that are treated at the urgent care and which symptoms to look out for so you know when it’s time to seek medical care.

Pediatric Ear Infections

Ear infections occur often in children. The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) describes an ear infection as, “an inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by bacteria, that occurs when fluid builds up behind the eardrum.”

There are three types of ear infections: two infections that can affect the middle ear and another that affects the outer ear canal. Toddler ear infection symptoms or baby ear infection symptoms can include:

  • Touching, pulling, or tugging at the ears
  • Complaining that their ear hurts
  • Being overly fussy or inconsolable
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feverish body temperature
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Being clumsier than usual
  • Having difficulty listening or responding to quieter sounds

When Should I Seek Medical Care for Pediatric Ear Infection Symptoms?

Scripps recommends having your child seen at a walk-in clinic or doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever that persists longer than two days while on antibiotics
  • Ear pain becomes unbearable and your child is inconsolable
  • Ear pain lasts longer than three days and your child is on antibiotics
  • Ear discharge continues for more than three days and your child is on antibiotics

Upper Respiratory Infection 

Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs), like respiratory syncytial virus, are a common ailment. According to The Pediatric Clinic, pediatric respiratory infections are “an infection that can lead to a runny nose and congestion.”

Symptoms of a URI include:

  • Nasal/chest congestion
  • Cough
  • Raspy voice
  • Low grade fever (100°F or less)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rash

Do I Bring My Child to an Urgent Care for an Upper Respiratory Infection?

Yes, you can bring your child to an urgent care for an upper respiratory infection. If your child is experiencing the following symptoms, it is suggested by The Pediatric Clinic to call or be seen by a healthcare provider for pediatric respiratory infections.

  • Dry diapers (for more than 8 hours)
  • Fast or strained breathing
  • Exhaustion
  • Inconsolability

Types of Coughs 

There are many different types of coughs that affect children and often they are mild and dissipate on their own or with over-the-counter cough medicine. However, there are types of coughs that raise concern for parents and medical providers.

Kids Health clarifies that while coughing is unpleasant it, “is a healthy and important reflex that helps protect the airways in the throat and chest.” Keep in mind, there are a few types of coughs that parents should be aware of.

  • “Barky”– A “barky” toddler cough or baby cough could be something of concern especially in younger children due to their smaller airways. This type of cough causes swelling of the voice box and windpipe and makes breathing difficult.
  • Whooping Cough – Whooping cough can be described as an “infection of the airways caused by bacteria.” This type of cough makes it hard for children to breathe between coughing fits. There is a vaccine for this cough, which is included in the DTaP vaccine to prevent the spread of this illness.
  • Wheezing or Dry Cough – Wheezing usually occurs when the airways in the lungs are swollen and inflamed.
  • Persistent or Chronic Cough– As the name suggests, a persistent cough is one that tends to stick around for longer than usual.
  • COVID Cough – Tends to be dry and persistent according to the Mayo Clinic.

Does Coughing Warrant a Visit to an Urgent Care?

Yes, coughing in conjunction with other symptoms can warrant a visit to an urgent care. According to Kids Health, contact a doctor if your child has a cough and:

  • Is having difficulty breathing or breathing is labored
  • An increased breathing rate
  • Blue lips or face
  • High fever
  • Fever of any kind if the child is 3 months old or younger
  • Making a “whooping” sound when taking a breath after coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Making sounds when breathing in, known as stridor
  • Tired and fussy
  • Dehydrated

Pharyngitis or Sore Throat

Pharyngitis, or pain, redness, and swelling of the throat, is another common reason parents bring their children to an urgent care center. John Hopkins Medicine says that pharyngitis or tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils) can be caused by a variety of things but a virus or bacterial infection such as strep throat is usually the culprit.

A child complaining of throat pain may have other symptoms including:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Raspy voice
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Body aches
  • Swollen and red throat
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Difficulty breathing

Does My Child Need to be Seen for Pharyngitis or a Sore Throat?

Yes, John Hopkins recommends bringing your child to an urgent care center or family doctor if your baby or toddler:

  • Has a sore throat that persists for a few days
  • Has a fever or other symptoms accompanying their sore throat
  • Is having difficulty breathing
  • Is having trouble swallowing
  • Is drooling excessively
  • Has neck stiffness or swelling


A fever is a clear indication that your body is battling an illness, according to Stanford Children’s Health. They continue to point out that a “fever stimulates the body’s defenses, sending white blood cells and other ‘fighter’ cells to fight and destroy the cause of the [illness or] infection.”

So, what temperature is a fever for a child? The Mayo Clinic mentions that a child is considered to have a fever if they have a “rectal, ear, or temporal temperature” of at least 100.4°F, an oral temperature of at least 100°F, or an armpit temperature reading of at least 99°F.

When Does My Child Need to be Seen for a Fever?

Although fevers are often a good sign that your child’s body is doing what it is supposed to, there are times you may need to bring your child to see a provider, including if they are:

  • Younger than 3 months and have a rectal temperature reading of 100°F or higher
  • 3-6 months and have a temperature reading of 102°F or higher
  • Between the ages of 6-24 months and have a fever of 102°F that lasts longer than one day (with no other symptoms)
  • Inconsolable
  • More tired than usual
  • Uncomfortable
  • Sick with a fever accompanied by other symptoms such as cough, diarrhea, and congestion

Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine is Here For You 

Now that you know more about child ailments that are commonly treated by urgent care centers, do not hesitate to visit your nearest Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine location.

We have locations across the Denver metro area and are conveniently open 7 days a week. Schedule your visit online or walk-in today!