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When to Take Your Child to Urgent Care for ENT Problems

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Posted by Temple ReadyCare

Medical visits for ear, nose and throat (ENT) problems in children total nearly 30 million per year. It's no wonder, since a child's ears, nose and throat are not fully developed until around age 6. But how do you know when your child's medical issue requires a visit to a doctor — or when you can just treat it at home?

Here are some of the most common ENT problems in kids, as well as general guidelines for visiting an urgent care center when you can’t see your pediatrician.

Ear Infections

Until a child's sinus drainage systems are fully developed, they're more horizontal than vertical, so it's easier for bacteria to get stuck and cause infections. That's why ear infections are more common in young children than in older children or adults.

When to treat at home

If the discomfort seems mild, warm compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers may help. But since ear infections are often quite painful and can worsen if not treated, they typically require a trip to the doctor.

When to go to urgent care

  • Your child is in pain or has a fever
  • It’s their first or second ear infection in a year
  • Antibiotics were successful in treating previous infections

But if your child has had 4 or more ear infections in 1 year or if antibiotics have not been successful, you should make an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss whether ear tubes may help.

Common Cold

Kids get colds all year long, which cause issues affecting the ears, nose and throat. Keep in mind that some of the symptoms of a common cold can easily be confused with symptoms of the flu, COVID-19 or other infections such as strep throat or a sinus infection.

When to treat at home

If your child has sniffles, sneezes, a mild cough and/or sore throat but no fever, and it lasts only a week or so.

When to go to urgent care

  • Fever of 101 degrees or higher for 72 hours
  • The illness lasts for more than 10 days
  • There's thick yellow or green discharge — could indicate a sinus infection
  • Flu symptoms — chills, body/muscle aches, fatigue
  • COVID-19 symptoms — any of the flu symptoms, as well as vomiting, diarrhea and/or new loss of taste or smell

You may need to follow up with your pediatrician if your child experiences recurring sinus infections or if minor illnesses repeatedly cause inflammation of the tonsils.

Snoring or Noisy Breathing

These conditions are not normal in children, or even in adults, and should be checked out when they occur on a regular basis.

When to treat at home 

If it only happens when your child has allergies, a cold or other minor illness, there's likely no need to see a doctor. Unless, other symptoms warrant a visit.

When to go to urgent care

If snoring and/or noisy breathing occur consistently, even when your child is not congested.

Reach out to your pediatrician for further evaluation if the urgent care provider suspects your child’s snoring or noisy breathing could be caused by enlarged tonsils, adenoids, sleep apnea, chronic sinusitis or a deviated septum.

Nosebleeds

Dry air can cause nosebleeds. Children are also known to scratch and pick at their noses, which can cause excessive irritation inside the nasal passages, leading to nosebleeds.

When to treat at home

If the nosebleed is the result of a minor trauma, like being struck in the nose with a toy, or it happens for other suspected reasons (such as when your child has a cold or allergies), and subsides quickly.

When to go to urgent care

If bleeding from an injury does not subside or if your child is having frequent nosebleeds.

If you're following up with your pediatrician after your urgent care visit, you may be referred to a specialist to rule out potential causes of recurring nosebleeds, such as a clotting disorder, if:

  • Nosebleeds occur often or are heavy
  • They’re not alleviated with common measures such as placing a humidifier in your child's room

Visit Temple ReadyCare

Parents know how often their kids seem to get sick outside of regular office hours! Temple ReadyCare is here to care for your family 7 days a week, including nights, weekends and holidays. We have 4 urgent care locations, and see children 6 months old and up.

If your child is experiencing allergies, fever, a cold, earache or other symptoms, our physicians and nurses will help get them on the way to feeling better — no appointment required.

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