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Going to the Emergency Room

When your child is sick or injured, it's natural to panic and head straight for the emergency room (ER), because you know that you can get care, regardless of the time, day, or severity of your child's injury.

In some cases, it is a true medical emergency and the ER is the most appropriate place to get care.

In other cases, the illness or injury can be handled at an urgent care clinic, or treatment can wait until your child's doctor can see you.

When the ER is the right place to go, it's important to know what to expect once you get there. Having this information ahead of time can help make the experience a little less stressful.

Finding the Right ER at the Right Time

In certain situations, you should dial 911 to get an ambulance instead of taking your child to the ER yourself. Call 911 if:

  • Your child is having trouble breathing and is turning blue.
  • There has been a car accident and your child is unconscious or seriously injured.
  • Your child is having a seizure that lasts 3-5 minutes, is having difficulty breathing, or is turning blue.
  • Your child loses consciousness or is not responsive.
  • Your child might have a neck or spine injury.
  • Your child has a head injury with a loss of consciousness, persistent vomiting, or is not responding normally.
  • Your child has significant uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Your child has a possible poisoning and is not responding normally or having difficulty breathing. In any possible poisoning, call the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for expert advice and they may direct you to the ER.

Planning Ahead

Talk with your doctor about what to do — and which ER to go to — before you're in a situation where you might need to visit one. The doctor may direct you to an ER that's close to you or one in a hospital where he or she regularly sees patients.

Should your child go to an ER at a children's hospital? Because they're dedicated to caring for kids, children's hospitals probably have the most pediatric staff, specialists, and facilities. So if it's an emergency and a children's hospital is conveniently located, consider going there.

Otherwise, the community hospital nearest you will provide the medical care needed. If for any reason the hospital isn't equipped to treat your child's specific condition, the doctors there will arrange a transfer to a facility that is.

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