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Advice for Parents – Factors to Determine – When Should a Parent Take a Child to the Emergency Room (ER)?

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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Parents can sometimes have a hard time determining when it is appropriate to take a child to the emergency room. CBS News medical correspondent and pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Ashton recently outlined some pointers for parents to recognize when an illness or injury is an emergency.

For Babies:
Look for changes in the baby’s day-to-day habits such as:

• Eating habits: Have they started eating a lot more or a lot less than normal?
• Frequency of bowel movements or urination: drastic changes that happen the same time as a change in eating habits can signal a serious problem.
• Amount of sleep: a baby that has stopped sleeping or sleeping much longer than usual can be a sign of serious illness.

Another signal of something serious is if your infant cries for more than three hours in a row. If the crying does not seem hysterical or inconsolable, a call to the doctor is in order. Otherwise a trip to the emergency room is warranted.

For Toddlers and Older Children:
If your child is injured in an accident, consider the “mechanism of injury.” For example, tripping over a rug will likely result in a much less serious injury than falling out of a window. This information will help you determine how serious their injury is likely to be.

Next, consider the ABC method:

• Airway: Kids can usually catch their breath quickly after an accident. If their breathing does not sound normal to you, consider a trip to the ER.
• Bleeding: If the wound does not show signs of clotting, if it seems very deep, or is more than ½ inch long you should visit the ER right away.
• Color: If your child’s color looks off, especially blue, yellow or grey, it can be a sign of internal injury and you should get them to an emergency room as soon as possible.

Another important indicator is your child’s mental status. If he babbles, is incoherent or delirious, this can be a sign of a high fever or meningitis.

If a parent has concerns about the health of a child, it is always advisable to be very cautious and diligent with medical care and follow up which may involve or require an ER visit.