School Age Health: Going to the Emergency Room with Your Child

Because bringing your child to the emergency room is a stressful and emotional event, it is important to know how to prepare for the experience and to learn about what to expect when going to the emergency room if and when the occasion does arise. This will help you stay calm and prevent any added distress being put upon your child.

Finding the Right Emergency Room for Your Child

It is always best to speak to your child’s health care provider about what emergency room she recommends prior to a situation arises in which your child needs to visit the emergency room.

Your child’s doctor can provide information on an emergency room that is close to home and one with which she is familiar. Also, she can recommend a children’s hospital that might be in your area or a hospital with an excellent reputation with treating children.

In the case that the nearest hospital is unable to care for your child, your doctor will arrange a transfer to a hospital that is able to provide your child with the care he needs.

When Should I Bring My Child to the Emergency Room?

The following are some symptoms that require an immediate visit to the emergency room:

  • difficulty breathing (including both labored and accelerated breathing)
  • change in mental state (including confusion and disorientation)
  • fever with a rapidly spreading rash
  • stiff neck accompanied by a fever
  • cut or break in the skin that fails to stop bleeding
  • rapid heartbeat that persists
  • severe bleeding or trauma to the head
  • ingestion of a poisonous substance or medication

Preparing for An Emergency Room Visit

You should be knowledgeable with your child’s symptoms so that you can clearly explain them to the emergency room doctor.

Also, you should know your child’s medical history. Keeping a written record of your child’s medical history in a handy place at all times is helpful for a situation in which your child needs to visit the emergency room and can also be helpful in other situations, such as when a babysitter or nanny is caring for your child.

Your child’s medical history record should include the following information:

  • medications
  • allergies
  • illnesses
  • previous hospitalizations
  • previous surgeries
  • family medical history

Bring this record with you to the hospital; also, if your child has ingested something, such as medication or an object, bring it with you. Bringing a pad of paper and a pen is also helpful because you can jot down information that the emergency room doctor gives you, such as medications and contact information, which can be hard to keep track of when you’re feeling stressed.

Also, bringing a long a pair of pajamas and a toothbrush for both you and your child is helpful if your child needs to be admitted. A book, favorite stuffed animal, or toy can make your child feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.

What to Expect When Bringing Your Child to the Emergency Room

You will usually have a long wait at the emergency room. Your child will probably be feeling scared or confused and might be in pain, so try to remain calm and provide reassurance. While he may be frightened because people around him feel sick, assure him that a hospital is the place where doctors can take care of these people and help them get better.

Before seeing a doctor, a nurse will conduct a triage: this is a quick assessment of your child’s medical state that includes taking his vital signs.

Your child will likely see a specialist, especially if it is a weeknight or a weekend. He will examine your child and prescribe the appropriate treatment. This might include admittance to the hospital for further testing or treatment and if necessary, surgery. If your child is admitted, your child’s doctor will be contacted.

While most emergency rooms have translation services, it is a good idea to bring along a fluent relative if you are not comfortable speaking in English.