Ask a Doc: When do you take your kid to the emergency room?

Most kids get fevers every now and again, but what about fevers paired with coughing and sore throats? Here's when to visit the ER.

Ask a Doc: When do you take your kid to the emergency room?

Wellness

Ask a Doc: When do you take your kid to the emergency room?

This post has been written by guest contributor Glareh Imani, D.O. the assistant medical director at Abrazo Scottsdale Campus.

Do you know when you should take your child to an emergency room?

Winter is a busy time for emergency rooms especially with parents bringing in their children while influenza and other viruses are most active.

It is often safer to err on the side of caution when you are wondering if your child needs to go to the ER. If you think there is something concerning going on with your children, it is best to have them evaluated.

However, paying attention to important aspects of certain common ailments may help you determine which option is more appropriate between calling your pediatrician for an appointment, a phone consultation, urgent care or an emergency room visit.

Cuts and Scrapes

An African American father putting an adhesive bandage on the knee of his 5 year old boy. His son must have fallen off his bike or scooter since he is wearing a helmet.

Credit: Getty Images

Minor superficial cuts should be cleaned immediately with soap and water, and bleeding from minor injuries may be controlled with some firm pressure for a few minutes.

Large or deep cuts, nonstop bleeding, or foreign objects entering the wound are all reasons to make the trip to the emergency department.  If there is a concern for a broken bone, look for obvious deformities, inability to use the limb, or discoloration or swelling. Get to the ER if you think your child has broken something and any of the above is present.

Fever

Credit: Getty Images

For most children older than 6 months, fever coupled with any of the following, should prompt consideration of ER services:

  • Fever more than three consecutive days
  • Dehydration signs (dry mouth, sunken eyes, tiredness, loss of appetite)
  • Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Difficulty moving neck or purplish rash on skin
  • Altered mental status

 Cough

Young mixed race preteen girl sneezes into her arm in pharmacy.

Credit: Getty Images

Coughing with nasal congestion or a runny nose could just be a common cold which doesn’t require an emergency visit. However, if a child is experiencing a “barking” cough in the middle of the night, this is one indicator of croup, which could be dangerous if it impairs a child’s ability to breath or is severe.

If it lasts for more than a few days, or if they exhibit any other concerning symptoms such as difficulty breathing, change in skin color, vomiting, or fever, it is best to have them evaluated.

Rash

Eczema on the skin of the kid's hand

Credit: Getty Images

Not all rashes are concerning. However, your child will need immediate attention if the rash is progressing rapidly, or if it’s coupled with fever, blistering, pain, or other concerning symptoms.

Keep in mind

When your child has what appears to be a routine illness, there’s a lot you can do before making the decision to go the ER. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen often work well for relieving pain and reducing fever. Age-appropriate anti-histamine dosing or anti-itch cream can be used to treat minor rashes. Keep a thermometer handy to know whether your child has a fever. Have your child drink plenty of water or electrolyte solution for rehydration.

Finally, it is best to not delay evaluation when these initial steps don’t work, or any of the above factors are present and the symptoms.

Glareh Imani, D.O. is the assistant medical director at Abrazo Scottsdale Campus.

Disclaimer: Dr. Glareh Imani is an independent physician and is not an employee, agent or representative of Abrazo Community Health Network. She is solely responsible for the provision of her medical services to patients.

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