Warning Signs: When to Take Your Child to the ER

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your children safe and healthy. Even healthy children get sick or hurt sometimes, but it can be difficult as a parent to know when to make the decision to take your child to the emergency room. You should take your child to the emergency room in the following circumstances:

  • Sudden change in mental status – confusion, disorientation, sleepiness or difficulty waking
  • Seizure, convulsion, fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Sudden changes in vision, weakness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, visible and strenuous use of the chest muscles to breathe
  • Profuse bleeding or bleeding that does not stop after applying direct pressure to the cut for 15 seconds
  • Gaping wounds with edges that do not connect or touch
  • Head trauma
  • Falls from a significant height
  • Stiff neck with a headache and fever
  • Red/purple rash that does not disappear when pressure is briefly applied to the skin with the fingertips
  • Persistent or severe vomiting or diarrhea, particularly if blood is present in the vomit or stools

The following symptoms are also warning signs that are specific to infants and newborns:

  • Fever that is running higher than 100.4ºF
  • Sunken in or bulging fontanel (the soft spot in the baby’s head)

If you are able to do so, talk to your physician or your child’s pediatrician and follow his or her advice. Even if you are unable to speak to the physician directly, you may be able to speak to a nurse on staff who can provide advice on how to proceed. If your child is displaying these symptoms, get to the emergency department as quickly as possible. If your child’s condition is serious or it seems that it will become life-threatening before you can reach the emergency room, or if your child is unresponsive and cannot be roused, call 9-1-1.

The best way to prevent injuries that could warrant a visit to the emergency room is to prevent those injuries from happening in the first place. 

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