According to new research, many parents don't know how to handle certain urgent medical issues. 
Kids in the ER
Credit: drpnncpptak/Shutterstock

Would you take your child to the emergency room if he or she got a minor burn? What about if your child swallows a pill or starts choking?

If you're like half the parents surveyed for a recent study, you don't really know how you'd react in any of those situations—but the study asserts that parents rely too heavily on trips to the ER for these types of medical issues.

According to a new poll from the University of Michigan, more than half of all parents admittedly don't know how they'd handle certain emergency situations. These findings, which are part of the C.S. Mott Children's National Hospital Poll on Children's Health, are based on the observation of a national sample of parents with children aged 0-5.

The parents surveyed were asked how they'd react to specific urgent medical scenarios. When asked what they'd do if their kids got minor burns, 71 percent of parents expressed they were very confident about how to proceed—82 percent of responders said they'd take their kids straight to the emergency room.

But parents weren't so sure of how they'd react in other emergency situations. Only 48 percent expressed confidence in how they'd react if their kids were choking, for example—8 percent of those parents said they'd take their kids to the emergency room, while many of the others said they'd try to handle the situation immediately at home by using the Heimlich maneuver or by trying to dislodge the item causing the choking.

When asked how they'd react if their children accidentally swallowed medication, over half the responders said they'd attempt to retrieve the pills from the mouth, 26 percent said they'd try to make their kids throw up, 61 percent would call poison control right away, and 32 percent would take their children to the emergency room.

Just 10 percent of the parents observed had received first aid training within the past year—and while many had taken training in previous years, 43 percent of the parents surveyed had received no first aid training at all. Not surprisingly, those with no training seemed to be the least confident in how they'd react to emergency situations, while those who had been in first aid training in the past year were most confident.

Our take on all this? So much of parenting is about thinking on the fly and instinctively knowing what your child needs in the moment—and a simple poll can't measure your parental instincts or fully predict how well you'll handle a crisis in your own home. Still, these results are worth considering, and you may want to have a conversation with your doctor about how you should react in any of these scenarios. And, of course, some first aid training could be a great thing to have under your belt (whether or not you're a new parent!).

Here's what the study's authors had to say:

"These Mott Poll results demonstrate that first aid knowledge and training helps parents feel more confident in their ability to handle common medical situations. In certain situations, such as a small burn, parents would likely be able to consult a first aid book or online reference to guide their response," the researchers said, according to a release for this news. "In contrast, more time-sensitive situations such as choking require that parents be knowledgeable and ready to act. First aid training can help parents manage urgent medical situation effectively."