When do I take my child to the Emergency Room?


It’s 2 a.m. and your three-year-old child is running a high fever. She’s screaming and in obvious discomfort. The thermometer shows 103 degrees. Is this a medical emergency? Should you take your child to the ER? Almost every parent has faced these difficult questions with a sick or injured child. Of course, any life-threatening situation demands immediate treatment at an emergency room. Here are some examples:
  • Bleeding that won’t stop after 15 minutes
  • A gaping wound where the edges are apart
  • Wounds to the head or hands
  • Puncture wounds
  • An abnormally depressed or bulging soft spot on an infant's head
Other situations are more difficult to judge, so here are some guidelines to help you determine if your child needs to go to the ER. Post them in a convenient place. If there is ever any doubt, play it safe. Call your pediatrician or 911, or take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room.

For babies under the age of two:
  • A fever over 103 degrees
  • Refusing to take fluids
  • Lethargic or non-responsive
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rhythmic jerking like a seizure
  • Fainting and loss of consciousness
  • Skin or lips turn blue, purple or gray
For older children:
  • A fever over 103 degrees
  • Severe headaches or neck pain
  • A stiff neck together with a fever or headache
  • Changes in mental status such as confusion and difficulty keeping awake
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rhythmic jerking like a seizure
  • Fainting and loss of consciousness
  • Skin or lips turn blue, purple or gray