How to Know if You Should Bring Your Child to the ER

There are a lot of reasons to bring your child to the emergency room (ER), but some situations are harder to discern than others. For instance, a broken leg might be an obvious contender for an ER visit. However, is an ear infection or vomiting reason enough?

Emergency room visits can be expensive. Of course, we want the best for our children, but there is no reason to spend an arm and a leg if you can get the same excellent care for less. Fortunately, there are plenty of great affordable options.

So, when do you know when those alternatives are the right option for you and your family? There are a few telltale signs that you ought to race to the hospital, and their absence may indicate you are better off with urgent care or a community health center.

Here are the signs it is time to take your injured or ill child or family member to the emergency room.

Difficulty Breathing

If your child has difficulty breathing, you should probably bring them to the emergency room. It is just not worth taking the risk. Severe difficulty breathing will manifest itself in a heaving chest and/or difficulty talking or walking.

This advice may differ if your child has a known chronic respiratory illness. In that case, you should try any prescribed medication and closely monitor symptoms. If they get worse, definitely take them to an urgent care, properly equipped health center, or emergency room.

An asthma attack or difficulty breathing as a result of anaphylactic shock relating to an allergy necessitates an immediate emergency room visit.

Uncontrollable Bleeding

Any bleeding which cannot be maintained at home by traditional means is likely the result of a serious illness or injury. You should consider taking your child to the emergency room in this instance, because this may require extended hospitalization. You do not want to risk extensive blood loss and unnecessary travel.

Some Broken Bones

Fortunately, a lot of broken bones or sprains can actually be accommodated in urgent care or community health facilities! A lot of urgent care and community emergency rooms have radiology and imaging services. Some even offer CT scans. 

“CT scan images provide more detailed information than x-ray images do. They have a variety of uses, but are most commonly used to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from incidents such as car accidents or other types of trauma,” says Community Health 1st ER, an urgent care in Pasadena.

You should bring your child to the emergency room for larger breaks or fractures that you suspect may be beyond the scope of your local urgent care. If you have the luxury of time (and no one would blame you if you don’t, with a hurt child to tend to!) you can call the urgent care and ask for counsel.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is very tricky to diagnose in young children. Discerning whether an ache or pain is your standard tummy upset versus something more serious takes time. If the child becomes sullen or maintains that they are in a consistent amount of pain over an extended period of the day, you should consider bringing them to the emergency room.

Because abdominal pain can be so serious, it is important that you keep an eye on the behavior and mannerisms of small children who may have trouble communicating their pain properly.

Numbness or Sudden Trouble Walking Normally

The sudden onset of numbness or inhibition of normal motor function is cause for great alarm, and there is no substitute in this instance for a fully equipped emergency room associated with a hospital. This is indicative of a serious problem which may be neurological in nature. It might also be a bug bite or a severe allergic reaction.

Tingling can be hard to suss out in children, because young kids will likely not have an accurate vocabulary to put it into words. However, you can observe numbness and the interruption of motor function without relying on your children to relay the physical symptoms.

Vomiting or Severe Constipation

Vomiting consistently or excessively over a period is cause for concern. This, or paired with trouble defecating or urinating, should be immediately responded to. Vomiting in isolation isn’t necessarily an emergency, but any irregularities in the vomit such as blood should raise alarm.

Severe constipation should also be immediately attended to in small children. Some urgent care facilities will be equipped to deal with this. However, if constipation and straining when trying to release continues after an initial urgent care visit, you should consult with your child’s pediatric physician and then take them to the emergency room if necessary.