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Taking your child to the ER

9 tips to help decide if it's an emergency, and what to do next.

Article Author: Juice Staff

Article Date:

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Use your pediatrician's 24/7 on-call line to ask questions if you're not sure what to do.

When your child wakes you in the middle of the night with a raging cough and fever, or has been complaining of a severe stomachache for longer than seems normal, how do you know if it's time to take your child to the emergency room? As a parent, making these decisions can be tough.

"Our best advice for parents is to trust their instinct," said Brian Gilligan, MD, medical director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine for Wolfson Children's Hospital. "A call to the pediatrician is a good place to start, but if you feel like your child needs to be seen immediately, take him or her to the nearest Children's Emergency Center. Our pediatric emergency medicine specialists are specifically trained to treat children and babies, and will provide a thorough evaluation."

9 tips for navigating your child's ER visit

Emotions may be heightened when your child is sick, so it's a good idea to be prepared ahead of time. 

Here are nine tips to help parents determine when to let the symptoms pass and when to see a professional, along with what to bring, ask and do next when they get to the ER.

1. Check with your pediatrician first.

If you're not sure whether it's an emergency, your child's doctor can help you decide. Most offices have someone available by phone 24/7 who can advise if you should head to the ER right away for medical care.

2. Choose a Children's Emergency Center.

An ER affiliated with a children's hospital or medical center, like Wolfson Children's Emergency Centers, has specially trained staff to handle serious issues that may arise from seemingly minor symptoms.

3. Be calm and clear. 

Even if your heart is racing, staying calm will help your child feel less anxious, and you'll be able to communicate more clearly to those who can help.

4. Bring your child's health history. 

The emergency physicians will need to know about immunizations, previous illnesses, current health conditions, allergies and medications. Keep the information in your purse or diaper bag, along with your health insurance card.

5. Give the ER team all the facts. 

Information about your child's symptoms, when they first appeared, how an injury occurred, etc. will help the doctor diagnose and treat your child more quickly.

6. Tell your child what to expect. 

Let them know that an ER doctor (not their regular doctor) will examine them, and may need to run special tests to help them feel better sooner.

7. Ask questions. 

You are your child's best advocate and the ER team's partner in care. Don't hesitate to ask for more information about the plan of care if you have questions or concerns.

8. Get clear discharge instructions. 

Make sure you know how to take care of your child once they're home, and when to return to the ER if your child becomes more ill.

9. Follow up with your child's pediatrician. 

It's a good idea to update your child's medical history and make a follow-up appointment.

Wolfson Children's Emergency Centers are open 24/7

The pediatric experts at Wolfson Children's Emergency Centers have experience with every level of emergency care for children. Wolfson Children's Hospital is also home to the region's only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, with a dedicated team to care for the most critically ill and injured babies and children. 

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