Emergency Room sign

General Health & Wellness • Mar 15, 2022

After Hours, Emergency Care, or Virtual Care? How to Make the Right Decision

Should I take my kid to the emergency room or After Hours care?

What conditions can convenient care clinics treat? 

When is telemedicine an option? 

When your child isn’t feeling well, you may ask yourself some of the above questions. But the choices can be confusing – what is the difference between convenient care and urgent care?  Where do you go for an earache, a sprain, or something more serious, such as trouble breathing?  While convenient care, virtual care, and the ER aren’t meant to replace visits to your pediatrician or doctor, they are a good solution when you need to see someone during off hours, weekends, or more quickly than going to your physician.

Contact your pediatrician first when health concerns arise unless it is a medical emergency. Convenient Care and After Hours clinics are walk-in centers that are great alternatives when you aren’t able to see your regular provider or after regular hours. Services vary by location, but these clinics often offer lab tests for basic bloodwork and advanced diagnostics, including X-rays. The wait is typically short, and the cost is less than going to an emergency room.

After Hours & Convenient Care

After Hours and Convenient Care clinics are used to treat minor injuries or illnesses. These clinics are less expensive than a visit to an emergency room, often costing the same as a pediatrician copay. We have several locations in Missouri and Illinois that offer extended hours and accept walk-ins. The BJC Medical Group Convenient Care clinics are typically staffed with a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant and can care for adults and kids over two years old. Additionally, the Washington University Children’s After Hours clinics staff exclusively  pediatric experts who specialize in dealing with kids. After Hours clinics are located in Edwardsville, South St. Louis County, and O’Fallon, MO

Use After Hours & Convenient Care for:

  • COVID-19 symptoms/testing/rapid testing (varies by location)/treatment
  • Allergies
  • Insect bites
  • Coughs, colds, flu, and fever
  • Earaches
  • Urinary problems
  • Sore throats and strep or mono
  • Eye irritation
  • Mild skin conditions and rashes

Emergency Rooms (ERs)

Emergency rooms are for more serious injuries or illness and are open around the clock. In addition to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the ERs at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Progress West Hospital,  Memorial Hospital Belleville, Memorial Hospital Shiloh, and Northwest HealthCare are staffed 24/7 with Washington University physicians from St. Louis Children’s Hospital to see all kids who come to these emergency rooms. You can check-in for estimated treatment times at select hospital emergency rooms. Of course, if the condition is life-threatening, such as seizures, shortness of breath, or if someone is unresponsive, call 911 immediately.

Use the ER for:

  • Severe COVID-19 symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe pain
  • Serious injury
  • Sudden vision impairment
  • Broken bones
  • Severe burns
  • Fainting
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid heartbeat

Telemedicine and Virtual Visits

Telemedicine or virtual visits offer on-demand, same-day care without leaving home. Options vary by symptom but may include an e-visit or video visit to evaluate your symptoms. A video visit allows you to connect face-to-face with a provider using the camera on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Remember that virtual visits are for common conditions, not for emergency care, and are usually offered for kids 12 and older.