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
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
Be prepared, not panicked
To ease the strain of any trip to the ER, do the following advance
· Keep a list of relevant numbers on the wall by the phone:
your pediatrician, the ambulance, the emergency room and poison
· 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
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
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
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:
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.