Even healthy kids get hurt and sick sometimes. In some cases, you
will know that you need to head straight to the emergency room (ER) at
the nearest hospital. In other cases, it's more difficult to determine
whether an injury or an illness needs the attention of a medical
professional or can be treated at home.
Different problems require different levels of care. And when your child needs some sort of medical help, you have many options:
- Handle the problem at home. Many minor injuries and
illnesses, including some cuts, certain types of rashes, coughs, colds,
scrapes, and bruises, can be handled with home care and
over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.
- Call your doctor. If you're unsure of the level of
medical care your child needs, your doctor - or a nurse who works in the
office - can help you decide what steps to take and how.
- Visit an urgent care center. An urgent care center
can be a good option for non-emergencies at night and on weekends when
your doctor may not be in the office. At these centers, you can usually
get things like X-rays, stitches, and care for minor injuries that
aren't life threatening yet require medical attention on the same day.
- Visit a hospital emergency room. An ER - also
called an emergency department (ED) - can handle a wide variety of
serious problems, such as severe bleeding, head trauma, seizures,
meningitis, breathing difficulties, dehydration, and serious bacterial
- Call 911 for an ambulance. Some situations are so
serious that you need the help of trained medical personnel on the way
to the hospital. These might include if your child: has been in a car
accident, has a head or neck injury, has ingested too much medication
and is now hard to rouse, or is not breathing or is turning blue. In
these cases, dial 911 for an ambulance.
As a parent, it can be hard to make these judgment calls. You don't
want to rush to the ER if it isn't really an emergency and can wait
until a doctor's appointment. On the other hand, you don't want to
hesitate to get medical attention if your child needs treatment right
away. As your kids grow - and inevitably incurs sicknesses and
calamities - you'll learn to trust yourself to decide when it's an
Remember that in cases when you know the problem is minor, it's best
to contact your child's doctor, go to an urgent care center, or handle
it at home. Sometimes, ERs can be crowded and it can take a long time
for minor problems to be treated.