Kids and emergency rooms are one of those basic combinations, like peanut butter and jelly. A child breaks a bone, has a high fever or develops scary symptoms, and it's off to the ER. Here are five tips about making the trip.
1. HAVE YOUR CHILD'S MEDICAL HISTORY AND MEDICATION LIST READY
With no time to waste and nerves on edge, it helps to have a sheet already prepared with information about your child's health: illnesses, operations, medications and allergies.
"A parent who provides a great history can often get their problem solved quite quickly because you can start to formulate a picture of how this kid's life has been," said Dr. Sean Levchuck, chief of pediatrics and pediatric cardiology at St. Francis Hospital Heart Center in Roslyn. "I love it when a parent can hand me a sheet about their child that says something like 'He was born in 2002, he had emergency intestinal surgery, he spent three years on bronchodilators and asthma medications.' "
Dr. Rubin Cooper, chief of pediatric cardiology at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, suggests listing the name and phone number of your child's doctor. And for young children, he said, it's wise to take things to comfort the child, like a blanket or toys, plus formula-filled baby bottles for infants, if appropriate.
2. KNOW THE CONDITIONS TO WORRY ABOUT
A fever that's not responding. Breathing difficulties. Incessant vomiting. These are the kinds of problems that should set off alarm bells and send you and your child to the emergency room quickly, Levchuck said. Other red flags include acute injuries from things such as falling off a bicycle or losing consciousness. A lethargic child who isn't acting normally should also go to the ER, Cooper adds.
3. CONTACT YOUR CHILD'S SPECIALIST FIRST, IF POSSIBLE
If your child sees a specialist, such as a pediatric cardiologist or oncologist, "parents should notify the specialist prior to going to the ER," Cooper said. "The specialist will instruct you as to which ER to go to." The specialist would then let the ER know what's going on and indicate any tests that should be done, he said.
4. DON'T BE WORRIED IF THE ER DOCTOR ASKS FOR HELP
General emergency physicians may feel nervous about treating a child, Levchuck explained. "They don't want to miss anything," he said, so they might call for assistance from a pediatric specialist. If that's the case, "things move a little slower," he added.
5. FOCUS ON PROMOTING TRUST AND SECURITY
It's best to not let your child know that you're upset or scared, said Cooper, who added that, nonetheless, it's a good idea to be truthful about what the child can expect. "Some parents lie to the child as far as what the treatment will be, i.e., in terms of needles," Cooper said.
He recommends speaking to your child in a soft voice. "Try to make the child feel secure by explaining to them that you and the doctor will take care of them." And Levchuck said it's a good idea to say something to the effect of "No matter what happens, I won't leave your side."