One of the most frequent patients in the ER isn’t even able to complete the admission forms —let alone tall enough to reach the counter. Children aged 6 or younger account for 1 in 4 ER visits every year, says the CDC.

If you find yourself facing an emergency, remain calm: Children pick up on your anxiety and panic, experts say. Talk softly and soothingly, and if your child is old enough, gently explain what’s going on.

Ask your pediatrician if you should call the office if you’re ever on the way to the ER; some prefer to meet their patients there or alert a hospital-based pediatrician of your impending arrival.

Does my child need emergency treatment?

Not every scary situation requires a visit to the ER—but get emergency care for:

  • changes in vision, difficulty speaking
  • uncontrolled bleeding
  • severe or persistent pain, vomiting or diarrhea
  • severe headache or vomiting, especially following a head injury
  • unusual abdominal pain
  • inability to stand up or unsteady walking
  • skin or lips that look blue, purple or gray
  • fever accompanied by behavior changes, especially with severe, sudden headache, stiff neck or back, or rashes
  • any sudden changes such as loss of consciousness, confusion, delirium, loss of responsiveness or alertness, excessive sleepiness, irritability, seizure or extreme withdrawal

Read about what you should do if your baby has a cold

When to Call 911

  • In some cases, you can drive your child to the ER, but dial 911 to get an ambulance if:
  • condition is life-threatening, such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • paramedics or emergency equipment is needed
  • moving the child could cause further injury
  • child’s condition could worsen, especially if delayed by traffic

What should I bring?

  • list of your child’s allergies and medications
  • immunization records and contact info for physicians who have treated your child
  • any potentially poisonous substances (in the original container) that may have been ingested
  • an overnight bag, including a change of clothes, pjs, and  a favorite blanket or stuffed animal

Top 5 reasons* for visiting the ER (ages 18 and younger)

  • cold symptoms (26.8%)
  • injury (21.0%)
  • nausea or vomiting (5.2%)
  • skin symptoms (4.5%)
  • abdominal pain (4.3%)

(Note: This doesn’t include “all other” which accounts for 22.2% of visits)

Also see: How To Relieve Your Infant’s Pain

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