Even before an emergency happens, you should have a conversation with your pediatrician about which ER to go to — your doctor may direct you to one where he regularly sees patients.
Is it REALLY AN Emergency?
Many times parents bring their child to an emergency room when they don’t actually have to. This is expensive and also bogs down the waiting room at the ER. Dr. Kevin Meyer, medical director of Mercy Health – Harrison Medical Center, suggests that parents call their pediatrician first whenever possible, especially if you’re not sure whether or not your child’s injury or illness requires the services of an ER. But don’t ignore your instincts. Says Meyer, “Parents’ intuition should guide them to some degree.” He advises that parents bring their children to the ER if they are suffering from abdominal pain, shortness of breath, suspected broken bones, fevers over 103, deep cuts, or if they demonstrate unusual lethargy or irritability after an injury.
Other conditions that may warrant a visit to the ER:
• Your child has a seizure that lasts up to five minutes
• Your child can’t breathe and is turning blue
• Your child is unconscious
• You are concerned that your child has injured his neck or spine
• You feel your child has a concussion: he has a loss of consciousness, persistent vomiting and is not responding normally
• Your child has uncontrolled bleeding
• Your child has been poisoned
What to Bring
A good working knowledge of your child’s medical history will help the ER staff, says Meyer. This includes a list of any medications and dosages, allergies, and your child’s immunization history. If your child has special needs or a more complicated medical history, you may want to bring along copies of any recent tests.
Meyer suggests limiting the number of people you bring with you to the ER, when possible. Extra bodies can add stress to an already stressful situation, and you’ll want to remain focused on your child. Having to entertain and reassure bored or frightened siblings might prove to be too much of a distraction.
What to Expect
There are plenty of unknown aspects to an Emergency Room visit, but chances are you will have a wait. Although Meyer points out that most ERs are equipped to “fast-track” children and evaluate them quickly, the ER staff will need to treat the most serious problems first. Depending on your child’s condition, there may be a wait between his evaluation and treatment, so bring along something — a toy, a book or his Nintendo DS — to keep him occupied (and distracted from feeling icky!).