The Kid’s Doctor: Is ‘urgent care’ really necessary?
With winter “sick season” at full throttle, I’ve noticed that when our office is really busy, or when a child falls sick on a holiday or over the weekend, many parents seek out a convenient “urgent care” facility.
In our area, there seems to be one on every other block and inside the pharmacy chain stores, as well. You can’t miss them. Not all are geared for children, however.
Most of the patients being seen at such facilities are complaining of fever, cough, sore throat and body aches. A few have other symptoms, as well. Urgent care always begins with tests.
Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself questioning why a patient needs both a flu test and a strep test, as in most cases the patient’s history is a bit different and the physical exam often points to one illness over another. However, when reviewing the “short chart notes” that are usually sent to me from urgent care centers, I find that over 50 percent of my patients were tested for both. At the same time, I sometimes see results that say, “positive for flu A, B and strep.” Are you kidding me?
I realize that everyone wants to get well quickly, but is it really necessary to go to an urgent care facility rather than waiting a day to see your regular doctor? You doctor is going to know you and your child’s history. A few more questions during the exam may point to one illness over another, and save you not only the discomfort of several tests, but also the cost. It’s easy to order tests, doesn’t take much thought and also makes money.
I know it’s hard when you’re the patient or parent and you don’t understand why the “provider” is ordering numerous tests, giving you confusing results and prescribing both antiviral and antibiotic medications. Is this a matter of too little information or too much? Many parents tell me they’ve left an urgent care center feeling confused and unsure of what “illness their child even had.” Unnecessary antibiotics are not benign, either.
If your child has a fever, cough, congestion and sore throat but no signs of respiratory distress or dehydration, wait until you can call your own doctor. In the meantime, treat the symptoms with fluids, fever-reducing medications and some tender loving care. I still think the waiting is worth it to get “better” medical care.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com.)
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