Call Your Pediatrician First
If a condition isn't an emergency, the best care will come from your pediatrician. The ER doesn't have your child's medical history on file. Unless you seek care at a children's hospital (most of them are in metropolitan areas), your baby probably won't be seen by a pediatrician. And then there's the wait: on average, three hours until discharge, including 47 minutes to see a doctor, according to the CDC.
Risks of ER Visits
Unnecessary tests and treatments are also a risk of rushing to the ER, says Dr. DuMond. Jessica Isaacs, of Brooklyn, New York, learned this firsthand when her 18-month-old daughter, Grace, was awake half the night crying while holding her stomach. At 6 a.m. Isaacs called her pediatrician, who gave her two options: Wait until 10 a.m. for the office to open or go to the ER. "I would have been a bad mom if I sat and waited with a crying baby," she says.
Once at the ER, Grace started hyperventilating and wheezing from the ceaseless sobbing. The doctor assigned to her ordered an asthma treatment even though she had no history of the disease. The medication made her vomit, which was just the thing her belly -- full of too much broccoli from the night before -- needed. And by the time Isaacs and her daughter left the emergency room, it was 10 a.m. anyway.
Keep in mind that there isn't always an easy or quick remedy for what is ailing your child. Mira, who is now 20 months old, has had several colds since her stomach virus nearly a year ago. Recently, she woke up one night with a fever of 103 F. The mother in me panicked, but then I remembered: If she is breathing fine, looks fine, and has good circulation, odds are that all she needs is rest, fluids, and Tylenol. I rocked her to sleep, and by morning her fever had broken, and she was running around the living room. Without having to spend the night in the emergency room, even I was well rested!