Seeking the Right Care for Your Child

Health & Wellness |

12/05/2023

doctor listening to baby's heart

Review our symptom guide to help determine if primary care, urgent care, virtual care or emergency care is the appropriate option for your child.

Content originally published on Dec. 5, 2022 and last updated Dec. 5, 2023

The number of RSV, flu and COVID-19 cases are increasing at this time and pediatric care is important now more than ever. One way to combat the season is to get vaccinated, according to Dr. John Christenson, associate medical director of infection prevention with Riley Children's Health.

"It’s going to be a very busy flu season," he noted. "We’re emphasizing that people get vaccinated" and added, "you want to get them now because you want to have your immunity by the time all these reach their peak."

The COVID-19 vaccine and flu shots are recommended and approved for all children ages 6 months and older. Infants under the age of six months can be protected from serious RSV infections if their mothers are vaccinated with the new RSV vaccine in their third trimester of pregnancy.

Need a flu shot for your child? Current patients can call their primary care office to learn more.

What should I do if I think my child is sick?

In addition to getting vaccinated, families can prevent respiratory illnesses by wearing a mask indoors, washing hands frequently, staying home when sick and covering coughs. Taking these safety measures can help families be prepared amidst these common illnesses.

If your child does get sick, whether respiratory or another illness, or is hurt, it’s important to know when to seek emergency care, urgent care, a primary care appointment with your pediatrician or a virtual visit.

For nonemergency situations, parents should call their pediatrician’s office to discuss the child’s needs. Pediatricians have the expertise to help decide the best care choice for your child.

What care should I seek for my child?

For help answering if your child’s need is a medical emergency or not, please review our symptom guide below. This guide helps families determine which care option may be appropriate for you:

    Symptom Guide for Children

    • Allergic reaction where it's hard to breathe: Emergency
    • Allergies: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Asthma attack - inhalers are working some: Primary care or urgent care
    • Asthma attack - inhalers are not helping and difficulty breathing: Emergency
    • Bladder infection (UTI): Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Broken bones - suspected: Emergency or urgent care
    • Burns - minor: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Burns - severe: Emergency
    • Chest pain: Emergency
    • Constipation: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Cough with stuffy or runny nose, like a cold: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Coughing or throwing up blood: Emergency
    • COVID-19 test: Primary care or urgent care
    • Cuts - minor: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Cuts that are deep or bleeding that won't stop: Emergency
    • Dehydration - no tears, dry mouth, decreased urination: Emergency
    • Dizziness or vertigo: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Ear pain or suspected infection: Primary care or urgent care
    • Eye pain or suspected infection: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Fever - higher than 100.4°F and can't be controlled by medication: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Fever - higher than 100.4°F for at least 3 days: Primary care, emergency, or urgent care
    • Fever - higher than 100.4°F and less than 3 months old: Emergency
    • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, achy body, cough: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Headache: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Headache - severe: Emergency
    • Insect stings and bites: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Passing out or blacking out: Emergency
    • Poisoning: Emergency
    • Rashes and other minor skin problems: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Rashes - redness does not go away when skin is pulled tight: Emergency or urgent care
    • Seizures: Emergency
    • Sinus infections: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Snake bites: Emergency
    • Sore throat, suspected strep throat: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Sports physicals: Primary care or urgent care
    • Sprains: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Stomach pain - minor, throwing up, loose stools: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit
    • Stomach pain - severe: Emergency
    • Trauma or very bad injury: Emergency
    • Trouble breathing: Emergency
    • Vomiting: Primary care, urgent care or virtual visit

    Always seek the appropriate care at a facility that works for you and your family.

    Did you find this information helpful? View or download a PDF version of this guide below:

    Riley Symptom Guide for Children

    Related Doctor

    related doctor headshot photo

    John C. Christenson, MD

    Pediatric Infectious Disease