20 Things One Mom Learned During Her First ER Trip with Her Child
Being a parent is the most demanding and scary job you will ever have. Children are naturally curious and rambunctious and constantly do unexpected things that can result in them getting hurt.
One of the most challenging questions a parent faces is when they should take their child to the ER. You don’t want to overreact but also want to ensure your child is safe, so it’s always better to seek medical attention when in doubt.
There are 20 things one Mom learned during her first trip to the ER with her child, and we think they may help you.
1. Accidents Happen
Remember, Doctors and nurses, are also parents and understand that accidents happen no matter how careful you are. Our primary mission is to care for the individual. Please always bring children if you have any concerns about an injury.
2. Discuss Pain-Free Options with The Doctor
Nobody wants their child to suffer unnecessarily. So, discussing pain-free treatment options such as applying a local anesthetic or sedating your child is always good. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If your child needs to have a shot, stitches, or blood drawn, ask if it’s possible to use a numbing cream.
3. As a Parent, You Know Best
It’s no secret that most children dislike going to the doctor, much less an emergency room. However, the experience doesn’t need to be traumatic. Explain why ER visits are necessary and everyone there is looking out for them.
While you are at the ER, remember you are your child’s best advocate. You must interpret their needs and communicate them to the doctors and nurses. If you feel your child is in pain, speak up. If you think they are not ready to go home, voice your concerns to the treating physician.
4. Know the Signs
Some symptoms can indicate something is wrong, and you must take your child to the emergency room.
High fevers that don’t improve with over-the-counter medication, trouble breathing, or uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea could be signs of a serious illness. Without proper treatment, they can lead to complications.
5. Breathing Problems
If your child is choking, don’t hesitate to call 911 or drive your child to the nearest ER immediately.
If you notice your child is wheezing, grunting, or making high-pitched sounds while breathing, rush them to the ER.
Signs of a breathing emergency include babies taking 60-70 breaths per minute, 1-year-olds taking 40 or more breaths per minute, and older children taking 30 or more breaths per minute.
6. Bring Comfort and Entertaining Items with You
Although at Altus Emergency Centers, we have minimal wait times to be seen by a doctor, you may spend a while at our facility while we run tests and await their results.
To help your child pass the time and stay relaxed, it’s always a good idea to bring comforting and entertaining items to play with.
7. Stay Calm
When deciding to take your child to the emergency room, the most important thing you need to do is to stay calm.
Take a few deep breaths, clear your mind, and remind yourself that staying calm is for your child’s benefit.
8. You Are Covered
If you are using your insurance, remember to bring your insurance cards when visiting the ER. Having your insurance information handy will help reduce out-of-pocket expenses.
And remember, the law covers you when it comes to emergencies. So, your insurance company cannot deny coverage or charge you extra if you visit an out-of-network facility.
9. Dehydration and Circulation Problems Are an Emergency
Please bring your child to the ER if you notice any of the following:
- They are not urinating enough (fewer than two soaked diapers a day),
- their mouth is sticky;
- they have tearless crying
- They have a sunken soft spot on their head or
- Have sunken eyes with dark circles underneath
- Are lethargic
- Look pale, or have a bluish tint
- Clammy skin
These are all emergent signs of severe circulation and dehydration issues; your child may need intravenous fluids.
10. Not Everything is an Emergency
Stomach aches, ear infections, and fevers are not typically reasons to go to the ER unless other symptoms accompany them.
In these cases, it’s best to call or visit your pediatrician. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and how your child reacts to the medication, they may suggest you take them to the ER. If you cannot reach your pediatrician or are unsure if the situation is an emergency, visit your nearest emergency room to be safe.
You can never be too careful with children. Even if you make it to the emergency room for knowledge and explanation, that is what the emergency room is for. You know your child; if you feel the situation is difficult to handle, it will always be appropriate to come to the emergency room.
11. When Everything is an Emergency
During your child’s first 6 to 12 weeks of life, nearly anything out of the ordinary can be an emergency.
Things like a fever higher than 100.5 F, difficulty feeding, and bumps or bruises on the head are all causes for concern.
Between 6 and 12 weeks, your baby’s immune system is still not strong enough to fight infection. Therefore, any minor illness can potentially become a major health problem.
12. It’s Ok to Give Your Child Medicine Before Going to the ER
Many parents fear giving their child a fever-reducer before taking them to ER because they feel it might interfere with diagnosis. But this is not true.
In many cases, it makes the examination process easier because your child is not uncomfortable.
However, if your baby is under three months and they have a fever, don’t waste time waiting for the medication to work; take them to the ER immediately.
14. Always Ask Questions
A trip to the ER can be scary and confusing, so asking questions is always a good policy.
If you have questions regarding your child’s treatment, politely ask for an explanation. Then, if you are still unclear, repeat, rephrase, or ask a follow-up question.
15. Talk to Your Child
For many children, the anxiety of not knowing what will happen can be worse than the pain they are experiencing.
So, make sure to explain and reassure your child constantly. Tell them a doctor will come to examine them and that they may need stitches, x-rays, or other special tests. Always be honest, especially about the potential pain, but in a way that does not scare your child—this way, they can prepare for what lies ahead.
16. Know or Bring Any Medication You Child is Taking
When you arrive at the ER, the nurses will ask about your child’s medical history, including any allergies and current medications they are taking.
Knowing this is extremely important to avoid dangerous drug interactions. It’s also helpful to know at what time they last took their meds and when was the last time your little one ate.
17. Know About Vaccines
It’s important to always share your child’s vaccination status with doctors in the ER. Unvaccinated children may be more susceptible to certain viruses, so knowing their vaccination status can help isolate symptoms, diagnose, and administer proper care.
18. Keep Records of Your Regular Doctor Visits
When you bring your child to the ER, nurses will ask many routine questions, such as your child’s weight, height, and any prior illnesses.
The answer to these questions is readily available from your pediatrician’s records. Therefore, it is helpful to bring your regular doctor’s contact information. Additionally, it’s always a good policy to keep your records. You can write them down in a notebook or save a file on your phone.
19. Share Precise Information
Sharing precise information with doctors at the ER will help them diagnose and treat your child faster.
Explain in detail when and how the accident or injury happened. For example, if your child suffered an accident, tell doctors where they have pain and if there is any swelling. If they are sick, explain the symptoms and when they first started.
If there is a case of poisoning, please bring the container with you and explain everything you have done since.
Share any symptom or detail you feel might be important, including changes in sleep, appetite, waste excretions, and medications you’ve given them.
20. Get Instructions for Home Care
While you are in the ER, doctors and nurses will care for your child. Make sure you ask for detailed care instructions for when your child gets to go home, so you can continue care there.
Also, ask doctors what you should do if their symptoms return or worsen and how to administer any medications.
It’s always best to ask these questions while at the ER. However, feel free to call us if you have any questions once you get home.
Know Where to Go In the Event of an Emergency
Keeping children safe is a priority for every parent and one that is shared by the pediatric emergency staff of all our Altus Emergency Centers, if your child shows any alarming symptoms do not hesitate to bring them in for an evaluation.