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Emergency Care vs. Urgent Care

If your child’s condition isn’t life-threatening, find fast, cost-effective walk-in care at a UNC Urgent Care center. We treat children ages 4 months and older who experience common conditions, such as:

  • Colds, coughs and sore throats
  • Ear infections
  • Minor cuts and abrasions
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections

Pediatric Emergency Care

If your child needs immediate medical attention, call 911 or take your child to the nearest emergency room.

When seconds count, you want the best possible care for your child. Find a team with the highest level of skill and expertise in treating critically ill and injured children at UNC Medical Center.

You know your child will get top-quality emergency pediatric care, because UNC Children’s is designated a level I pediatric trauma center. That means our emergency services received the highest designation a trauma center can achieve from the American College of Surgeons (ACS). That’s a first (and only!) in the Triangle, and we’re also one of only five in the entire Southeast to reach this nationally recognized mark of health care quality.

Every year, UNC Children’s provides emergency care to more than 14,000 children, including more than 2,000 with traumatic injuries. Our pediatric trauma team assesses, stabilizes and treats life-threatening issues in the shortest possible time to give your child the best outcome possible.

Emergency Services Especially for Kids

Our pediatric emergency department (ED), part of UNC Medical Center’s emergency department, is specially equipped to treat children from birth to age 18—something you’ll find at just 6 percent of emergency departments nationwide. Our trauma program includes:

• Five fellowship-trained pediatric surgeons

• Pediatric surgical specialists in anesthesia, neurosurgery, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), orthopedics, urology, reconstructive surgery, and oral and maxillofacial surgery

• Pediatric nurses trained and experienced in emergency care

• A 20-bed pediatric intensive care unit staffed by board-certified pediatric intensivists – medical doctors specialized in caring for children with serious illnesses or injuries

• Pediatric rehabilitation and therapy services, including physical therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy, and occupational therapy

• A children’s supportive care team that offers comfort and pain management during treatment

24/7 Care for Emergencies

The pediatric ED is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. If your child needs emergency care outside these hours, s/he will be admitted to UNC Medical Center’s general emergency department, where a resident physician who specializes in the care of children is always available.

Your ED Visit: What to Expect

Getting Here

The UNC Medical Center emergency department, including the pediatric ED, is located in the basement level of N.C. Neurosciences Hospital. Free valet parking is available for cars arriving with an emergency room patient or an ambulance.


When you arrive in the ED, follow the signs to triage. There, a nurse will quickly assess your child’s medical needs and begin to plan care.


From triage, you’ll typically go to the registration desk, where a clerk will ask for the information needed for your child’s chart, and you’ll sign consent for treatment.

Waiting Area

After you register, you’ll be asked to sit in the waiting area. A nurse will bring you to the ED as soon as a room is available. Children with life-threatening illnesses or injuries receive care first. Other children get attention in the order in which they arrive. We see all patients as quickly as possible.


Once in a patient care room, a team of nurses and doctors will examine and evaluate your child. They’ll ask questions to help assess and manage your child’s care. Your child may need X-rays, blood tests, or attention from a specialist. We’ll make you and your child as comfortable as possible during your wait.

If your child is in the ED for more than a few hours for treatment or monitoring, we may move you to the extended care area, located next to our main emergency department. The ED doctors will still be responsible for your child’s care.

Leaving the ED

Your doctor may decide your child needs to stay in the hospital. In that case, your child will stay in the ED until s/he is admitted as an inpatient. Then, s/he will move to a hospital room.

If your child doesn’t need to stay in the hospital, s/he will be discharged from the ED. The care team will give you written instructions for home treatment, medications, and follow-up care.

Transport for Critically Ill Children

If your child is being transferred to N.C. Children’s Hospital from another hospital, our Carolina Air Care pediatric and neonatal team provides specialized care during transport. The team includes six highly trained nurses and six respiratory therapists. Quick, attentive pediatric transport is available 24/7.

Your child may travel by helicopter or in our pediatric critical care ambulance, designed especially for children and babies. The pediatric ambulance accommodates two stretchers or neonatal isolettes and contains equipment specially sized for children and babies. The interior is painted in hues of yellow and red and offers a built-in DVD player and television to distract children from pain and anxiety during the ride.

Preventing Injuries in North Carolina

As a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, we provide comprehensive injury care—beginning with preventive services to help you keep your kids as safe as possible. Our activities include:

  • Safe Kids Orange County (NC) – Offers resources and community events to help parents prevent childhood injuries
  • Serving on regional and state trauma advisory councils
  • Trauma outreach education for hospitals and EMS providers


Is this an Emergency?

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 911.

Call Today

To contact the Emergency Care office, please call 919-843-7960.

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