When Your Child Needs Emergency Medical Services
It is rare for children to become seriously ill with no warning.
Based on your child's symptoms, you should usually contact your child's pediatrician for
advice. Timely treatment of symptoms can prevent an illness from getting worse or
turning into an emergency.
What is a true emergency?
A true emergency is when you believe a severe injury or illness is threatening your
child's life or may cause permanent harm. In these cases, a child needs emergency medical
treatment right away.
Discuss with your child's pediatrician in advance what you should do in case of a true
Many true emergencies involve sudden injuries. These injuries are often caused by
- Bicycle or car crashes, falls, or other violent impacts
- Burns or smoke inhalation
- Near drowning
- Firearms or other weapons
- Electric shocks
Other true emergencies can result from either medical illnesses or injuries. You
can often tell that these emergencies are happening if you observe your child showing any
of the following:
- Acting strangely or becoming more withdrawn and less alert
- Increasing trouble with breathing
- Bleeding that does not stop
- Skin or lips that look blue or purple (or gray for darker-skinned children)
- Rhythmical jerking and loss of consciousness (a seizure)
- Very loose or knocked-out teeth, or other major mouth or facial injuries
- Increasing or severe persistent pain
- A cut or burn that is large or deep
- Any loss of consciousness, confusion, a bad headache, or vomiting several times after a
- Decreasing responsiveness when you talk to your child
Call your child's pediatrician or poison control center at once if your child has
swallowed a suspected poison or another person's medication, even if your child has no
signs or symptoms.
Always call for help if you are concerned that your child's life may be in danger or
that your child is seriously hurt.
In case of a true emergency
- If it is needed and you know how, start rescue breathing or CPR
- If you need immediate help, call "911." If you do not
have "911" service in your area, call your local emergency ambulance service or
county emergency medical service. Otherwise, call your pediatrician's office and
state clearly that you have an emergency.
- If there is bleeding, apply continuous pressure to the site with a clean
- If your child is having a seizure, place her on a carpeted floor with her
head turned to the side, and stay with your child until help arrives.
After you arrive at the emergency department, make sure you tell the
emergency staff the name of your child's pediatrician. Your pediatrician can work
closely with the emergency department and can provide them with additional information
about your child. Bring any medication your child is taking and his immunization
record with you to the hospital. Also bring any suspected poisons or other
medications your child might have taken.
Important Emergency Phone Numbers
Keep the following numbers handy by taping them on or near your phone:
Your home phone and address:
Your child's pediatrician: #
Emergency medical services:
(ambulance/911 in most areas) #
Police: (911 in most areas) #
Fire department (911 in most areas) #
Poison control center: #
It is important that sitters know where to find emergency phone numbers. If you have
"911" service in your area, make sure your sitters know where to find emergency
phone numbers. If you have "911" service in your area, make sure your
sitter knows your home address and phone number, since an emergency operator would ask for
this information. Always leave your sitter the phone number and address where you
can be located.
Remember, for any emergency always call your child's pediatrician or EMS. If your
child is seriously ill or injured, it may be safer for your child to be transported by
emergency medical services.
The information contained in this publication should not be used as a
substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be
variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and
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Material taken from the American Academy of Pediatrics.