Whether it’s because of an accident or illness, taking your child to the emergency room is stressful.
Here are six tips from experts to help keep you – and your little one – calm while providing medical personnel with the information they need.
WHN TIP – Call Your Doc First: Before you head to the hospital, call your doctor. If it’s after-hours, the answering service will page your pediatrician. Give the service your cell number so the doctor can reach you.
1. Always Be Prepared
In an emergency situation, even the simplest facts (Is Johnny allergic to penicillin? Did Sarah have a tetanus shot?) can be difficult to remember. Keep important medical information in your wallet or on your phone so it’s easily available. Have an Emergency Information Card for each member of the family—just in case.
Just as importantly, know what hospital is on your health plan and what is the shortest route to get to it. If you have a choice, a pediatric emergency room might be a better option.
WHN TIP – Get the App: The free MyID – Medical ID Profile app (available for iOS and Android devices) allows you to store your entire medical profile such as emergency contacts, vital conditions, medical images, labs, allergies, medications, blood type, organ donor and many more.
2. List symptoms and any treatments administered at home.
Write down when the child first began showing signs of illness, what the symptoms were (vomiting, fever, lethargy), and what treatment you gave him or her. If this was an accident, write down what happened: did he fall down the stairs, get hit with a toy, was bitten by an animal?
If your child was exposed to someone with a contagious disease or illness such as strep throat or measles, be sure to include that in your notes.
The more details you can provide, the easier it is for healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat the problem. Plus, having it in writing allows you to comfort your child while the staff reviews your notes.
WHN TIP – Go Now! Some symptoms call for a hospital run or even ambulance transport. These include difficulty breathing, a bluish skin tone, delirium, unconsciousness, uncontrollable diarrhea or vomiting, signs of dehydration, high fever (100.5 or more) for infants under six weeks old, significant uncontrolled bleeding, deep cuts on the face, seizure or possible poisoning. For more advice, read When to Take Your Child to the Emergency Room and Urgent Care Versus the ER: A Pediatrician Offers Tips on Making the Right Choice.
3. Bring Along a “Lovie”
If you have time, bring your child’s favorite blanket or stuffed toy. Just having something to hold can help calm your little enough for the doctors to conduct an examination.
But skip the electronic games. They can be noisy, which will disturb other patents, and might be forbidden depending on the type of equipment being used in the room or area.
4. Be Patient.
Many hospitals use a ranking system to assign priority levels to patients on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the most urgent). A patient in cardiac arrest will be a 1, while a child with a scraped elbow would be a 5.
That being said, if your child is in physical distress (having trouble breathing, being non-responsive, or in some way is growing worse), alert the staff. Also, if your child needs a blanket, has to use the restroom or wants something to eat or drink, check with the staff first. They may want a urine sample, or, depending on the injury or illness, may want you to hold off on anything given by mouth.
WHN TIP – Need Special Help? Ask. Some hospitals have child life specialists who are trained to help children cope with the stress of being in the ER, help prepare them for procedures, and give them non-pharmacological pain management techniques even at very young ages, according to KidsHealth. For you: If you don’t speak English fluently, either bring along a family member or friend to translate for you, or ask the hospital for assistance. Most ERs have some translation services or someone who can help translate.
5. Don’t Treat Your Child.
Don’t give your child any medications (even over-the-counter ones) once you are at the hospital. If he or she is on a prescribed drug that has to be taken at certain times (insulin, for example), check with the staff before administering it.
6. Stay With Your Child.
Don’t leave your child alone. Hospitals can be scary places and having a parent available can be a big help. If possible, have a family member or friend who can stay with your child if you need to use the restroom or speak with medical personnel outside of the room. If you are alone, ask the staff if someone can be in the room just long enough for you to use the facilities.
For More Information
Parents.com–20 Things to Know Before Taking Your Child to the ER
Good information on what to know and do once you and your child get to the ER.
HealthyChildren.org– 10 Things for Parents to Know Before Heading to the ER
10 tips to help you know what to expect and be better prepared before you go to the ER with your child.
For more tips about what will happen when you get to the hospital, read 9 Things to Expect at the ER.
Photo Credit: Viorel Dudau (Dreamstime.com)