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What to Do When Your Child Needs Medical Attention Fast
By Sally Robinson, M.D. and Keith P. Bly, M.D

Any trip to the emergency room can be frightening, but when the patient is your kid, you must keep a cool head. Knowing where to go, being prepared and communicating with your child can temper your inevitable panic and your child's fear.

Know where to go

Start before an emergency strikes: Ask your pediatrician which hospital he or she recommends your child go to in the event of emergency. Get in touch with that facility and find out whether it has a separate
pediatric emergency room.

If it doesn't, look for a general ER with full-time pediatric staff. Should it have no pediatric staff at all, ask these questions: Are the emergency room doctors and nurses specially trained in pediatric emergency
techniques? Does the hospital have a pediatric intensive care unit or board-certified pediatricians (not residents) somewhere on the premises full-time? And, does the hospital have a separate in-house pediatric

Be prepared, not panicked

To ease the strain of any trip to the ER, do the following advance work:

· Keep a list of relevant numbers on the wall by the phone: your pediatrician, the ambulance, the emergency room and poison control.
· Create a medical packet, including relevant insurance information; your child's immunization record, a list of allergies to medicines and a list of all medications your child takes. Keep the packet someplace handy.

Easing the fears

Visiting an emergency room can be like weathering any other emotional storm for you and your child. In a word, it's stressful. Here are some things that you can do to minimize this particular fear:

· Bring along several familiar items, such as toys, books and photos, which serve as symbols of security.

· If your child is young, ask if you can stay in the hospital room with him or her.

· Keep in mind that many well-adjusted children fear abandonment in new situations. When separation is necessary, let your child know where you will be and when you will be together again. Expect tears, but remember that the hospital staff is skilled in providing comfort.

Perhaps the most important thing parents need to do is communicate with their child. Fear of the unknown can create unnecessary and scary images in the minds of children. So, explain in simple terms where he or she is going, and why. Children may ask questions ranging from "How long will
I be in the hospital?" to "Will it hurt?" Answer these questions honestly. If a procedure is going to cause discomfort, telling your child otherwise will only generate mistrust. With some early prepartion and communication, a trip to the ER won't seem so hectic.

Dr. Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: www.utmb.edu

The information presented on this site is intended solely as a general educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition and before starting any new treatment.


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