Parenting: When to take a child to the ER
May 5, 2011 (WPVI) -- When my now-18-year-old son, Jason, was about two years old, he cut his lip in the play structure at a McDonald's. His lip was gushing blood and we rushed him to the emergency room. By the time the doctor saw him, his lip had stopped bleeding and the doctor told us to put ice on it to reduce the swelling and sent us on our way. When now-15-year-old Billy was seven or eight years old, he was hit, smack in the nose, with a baseball. I took him to the ER, where the doctor assured me his nose wasn't broken. We iced it. And though he had a couple of impressive black eyes, after a few days, he was no worse for wear.
Last night, 10-year-old Micah had his turn. During warm-ups before his Little League game, he wasn't paying attention when a teammate threw a ball his way. He didn't catch it. It hit his mouth, causing his braces to slice into his lip. He was bleeding, A LOT. But unlike his brothers, with their similar accidents, he did not get a ride to the ER. After 18 years as a parent, various broken bones and more ER trips than I can count, I was pretty sure we didn't need to go. It helped that another Little League parent, a plastic surgeon, reassured me the cut wouldn't require stitches. After a couple of innings, once the bleeding stopped, and Micah went back into the game.
Medical emergencies force parents to make quick decisions. And it's hard to know when a child needs to go to doctor or the hospital. Insurance companies and their rules make you think twice, as well. So how do parents know when it's time to seek medical attention versus when it's time to stay calm and handle it themselves? The good news is that there are some guidelines.
In an online article, Dr. Henry Unger, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Holy Redeemer Hospital and Medical Center, says the following medical conditions always require a visit to an emergency room with a child:
And for those occasions where you're just not sure, he says it's better to be safe than sorry, "The ER is meant for emergencies, but I advise parents that it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you think you are having a medical emergency, go to the ER. If you are not sure, call your pediatrician. If it's after hours, your pediatrician should have an after-hours service or a nurse you can reach, but if you feel the problem cannot wait, go to the ER."
The Montreal Children's Hospital offers similar advice here: http://www.thechildren.com/en/info/er.aspx
My gut says to err on the side of caution. Not that I always listen to my gut. Billy will happily tell you about the time he walked around with a fractured finger for about a month, when I kept telling him he'd probably just jammed it and that ice and Tylenol would do the trick. Oops. My bad. (What can I say? I went to journalism school, not medical school...). The good news is that Micah's fine. And his team won 6-0.
amy buckman parenting reports, parenting, amy buckman
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