In the Event of an Emergency
Now you've prepared yourself for the worst. Here are the steps to take in case something actually happens.
1. Determine if you should call 911 or drive your child to the hospital yourself. This depends on the nature of the injury. According to Dr. Ruddy, you need an ambulance if your child may be suffering from any of the following:
- A head, neck, or spinal injury
- An active seizure
- Heavy bleeding or potentially severe blood loss
- Labored breathing
- Abnormal behavior
You may want to consider taking your child yourself if he has a potentially broken or fractured limb, slow bleeding, or pain. But if you have any doubts about the severity of the injury, call for an ambulance, especially if you're alone. If your child becomes more unstable, you won't be able to tend to him and drive at the same time. Or you may be too distracted to drive safely, which could harm both of you.
2. Call your pediatrician. If your child's condition isn't life-threatening, make this important call before rushing to the ER. The doctor may make the transition to the emergency room easier by calling ahead to say you're coming or have you start some therapy before heading over, says Dr. Ruddy.
3. Gather what you need for the trip. If your child has ingested something poisonous, take along the container of the toxic substance. If he's passed blood in his urine or stool, take a long a sample in a disposable cup or in the diaper -- if you have time. Pack some books and crayons in case there's a long wait. Finally, don't forget your child's favorite object.
4. Be prepared to answer questions in the ER. Once you arrive, a triage nurse makes a rapid assessment of your child's condition by taking the vital signs, asking you about the problem, and performing a quick visual and sometimes physical evaluation, explains Timothy Yeh, MD, director of critical care at Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. You'll also be asked for your child's medical history. Then he's either treated immediately or sent to the waiting room. And you may need to wait a while, as the sickest patients get first priority. Keep in mind that while you're waiting, your child may not be able to receive any pain medication. Next, your little one will be examined by an emergency medical physician (or in a teaching hospital, a pediatric resident); he may call in a specialist if he feels a higher level of expertise is needed. You may also want to request a specialist if your child requires treatment but his condition isn't life-threatening. If you're not sure what to do, call your pediatrician.
5. Ask about follow-up care. Before you take your child home, be sure to get a clear, written description of the care he needs. For example, if your child has stitches, find out how they need to be cared for and when they'll be removed. You should also be aware of things to look for that indicate you should call a doctor.
While there's no way to be prepared for every possible medical emergency, readying yourself as much as possible can make the experience less stressful -- and it could mean the difference between life and death.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.