When to Take Your Child to the ER

Most parents are understandably concerned about the health and well-being of their children. While most childhood illnesses are common – rash, fever, runny nose – and will run their course and typically do not need medical intervention, there are some symptoms that should not be ignored and require immediate medical attention. If such action is needed outside your pediatrician’s regular office hours, then a trip to emergency room (ER) may be required.
The main thing parents need to notice in their children is a combination of symptoms, not just one symptom. For example, a stiff neck could mean a child slept funny, but it is also a symptom of meningitis when combined with fever, light sensitivity and headache. Rashes are also common childhood ailments that are generally harmless. If a rash turns white when pressed and then turns red again when it is let go, that is usually not a cause for concern. However, a rash that is comprised of small red or purple dots that does not change color when you press on them can indicate a medical emergency.
A severe stomach bug can be cause for worry for many parents, but the main concern with vomiting and diarrhea is dehydration. If your child is suffering from minor dehydration, your pediatrician may recommend giving electrolyte solutions at home, depending on the age of the child. Dehydration needs to be closely monitored and sometimes requires emergency treatment.
For children under the age of one, there is a different set of symptoms parents should be aware of that require immediate medical attention. They include:
• Blue lips
• Strained breathing
• Fever over 110.4 F (in newborns)
• Worsening jaundice
• Dehydration
• Throwing up bright green bile or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
While some parents worry that their decision to go to the ER will be questioned by medical staff if it turns out nothing serious is actually wrong with their child, experts agree that parents should trust their instincts. The alternative would be to take a chance and not get medical attention and risk whatever outcome happened, which may or may not be detrimental to the child’s health.

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