When Your Child Needs Emergency Medical Services
As parents, we never want to think about the possibility of our children experiencing an injury that requires a trip to the ER. But, unfortunately, child emergencies happen every day, and the best thing we can do is prepare for them.
It is rare for children to become seriously ill with no warning. Depending on your child's symptoms, you should usually contact your child's doctor for advice. Early recognition and treatment of symptoms can prevent an illness or injury from getting worse or turning into a nearest 24-hour child emergency room.
At ER of Texas Emergency Center Emergency Room, our pediatric emergency physicians came up with this list of helpful tips, in essence, a parent’s guide to child emergencies to help you prepare. Our goal is to help you know when to rush your child to the ER and what you can do on your way here.
What is an emergency?
An emergency is when you believe a severe injury or illness is threatening your child's health or may cause permanent harm. In these cases, a child needs emergency medical treatment right away.
Discuss with your child's doctor in advance what you should do and where you should go in case of an emergency.
Emergencies can result from medical illnesses. In an emergency, your child may show any of the following signs:
- Strange or more withdrawn and less alert behavior
- Unconsciousness or no response when you talk with your child
- Rhythmic jerking (a seizure)
- Increasing effort or trouble with breathing
- Skin or lips that look blue, purple, or gray
- Neck stiffness with fever
- Increasing or severe persistent pain
- A cut that is large, deep, or to the head, chest, or abdomen
- Bleeding that does not stop after applying pressure for 5 minutes
- A burn that is large or involves the hands, feet, groin, chest, or face
- Any loss of consciousness, ongoing or worsening confusion, headache, or vomiting after a head injury
Many emergencies involve sudden injuries. These injuries are often caused by the following events:
- Bicycle or car crashes
- Burns or smoke inhalation
- Firearms or other weapons
- Electric shocks
4 Common Infant Emergencies Every Parent Should Know
Infants can be accident-prone little beings. As soon as babies can roll over, they can do themselves all sorts of mischief. As they grow into toddlers, the dangers only seem to get worse.
1. Burns and Scalds
Burns and scalds have a number of causes including very hot water (always test bath water before putting baby in), spilled beverages, cigarettes or lighters/matches, and domestic appliances such as irons. Toddlers in particular can move fast and tend to be a little clumsy, so it’s common for them to grab for a cup on a coffee table and send hot liquid over themselves.
If your infant suffers a burn, run the affected part under cold water. Turn the faucet low so the water’s not gushing. Keep the water running over the burn for no longer than ten minutes so you don’t overly chill the child.
Don’t try to remove clothing if it’s sticking to a burn since this is best left to experts. Cover the burn with a lint-free cloth to cut down the risk of infection, and avoid any ointment or balm. If the burn is severe (especially any burns to the genitals), take the infant to the emergency room.
It’s normal for burns to blister as they heal, and your toddler may want to pick at them if they itch. Try to discourage picking, since it’s best that blisters pop by themselves.
2. Bites, Stings, Cuts and Grazes
It is quite rare to find a child who hasn’t skinned his knees, gotten minor cuts, been bitten, or animal bites or strung by a bee or wasp.
Most cuts and grazes are minor and heal up on their own, but if your infant sustains a deep cut or there is lots of bleeding, they may need stitches and a trip to the emergency room.
For minor cuts, it’s enough to apply light pressure with a clean, lint-free cloth until the bleeding stops, which could take around ten minutes. Once the bleeding has stopped, cover the wound with a sterile dressing.
If the cut is a result of a fall and you suspect a broken bone, don’t try to move the affected arm or leg. Instead, take them to the emergency room where they can get an X-ray and receive appropriate care.
Bites from other children should be assessed professionally, especially if the skin is broken. You should wash the wound with soap and water, and then cover with an antibiotic ointment. An oral antibiotic may be prescribed to combat any possible infection.
Wasp and bee stings generally don’t need emergency treatment unless you know your child is allergic. Of course, there’s always the first time an allergic reaction shows up, so vigilance following a sting is wise. Look for:
- Wheezing or difficulty in swallowing
- Having trouble breathing
- Any swelling in the face, mouth or throat
- Hives that spread beyond the sting area
For known bee-sting allergies, you may already have medication at home. Administer this then take the infant to the emergency room.
In other cases, you can treat stings yourself. First, remove the stinger. Since stingers discharge venom for a few seconds after the sting, speed is important. Use tweezers, a credit card, or even your (clean) fingernail to scrape it out. A cool compress will ease the pain, as will a dose of infant painkiller.
3. Head Bumps
Bumps to the head are another common infant emergency. For children over a year old, however, they are normally not serious. Head bumps look worse than they are because the head has lots of blood vessels which can swell up dramatically, producing the familiar ‘egg’ shape. As long as your toddler is moving about, he or she is probably fine, although you should watch for limb, signs of favoring one leg or the other, sleepiness or vomiting.
A physician should always check head bumps in infants under one year old, since injuries are harder to detect in very young children.
4. Eye Injuries
Eye injuries can often look much worse than they are as well, although should never be taken lightly. Signs that the injury needs professional treatment include bleeding, lost mobility in the eye, severe redness or loss of sight.
The bones in the area around the eye take the brunt of any objects that fly in that direction or from accidental collisions. If the lid or brow is cut, apply direct pressure to stem any blood flow then take them to the ER in case stitches are needed.
Swelling around the eye area is normal following an injury, and may be tender or sore. Children’s painkillers can ease discomfort, as can ice packs if your infant will hold still long enough.
As you can see, not all infant emergencies are serious; in fact, most don’t need specialist treatment at all. Knowing the difference will help you determine what sort of treatment is best for your little one.
24-hour Emergency Medical Services and Tests are available for Kids and Infants
When a young patient arrives and needs blood tests or x-rays, our team offers laboratory and imaging services. Lab workers and imaging specialists are on hand to provide consultations and to help with a patient’s care if doctors order blood work, x-rays, an ultrasound, or other diagnostic tests. Parents can appreciate that their child will receive the best of care and a comprehensive diagnosis regardless of the time of day.
Children can become sick or suffer an injury unexpectedly. ER of Texas Emergency Center can help the youngest of patients feel better quickly and get back to their normal lives.
Our Pediatric ER is open 24/7 to help treat and diagnose minor and major emergencies. Our board-certified pediatric physicians are available 24 hours.