What to know if your child’s hurt

Dr. Andrew Sama
President, American College of Emergency Physicians

As summer heats up, millions of kids are outside enjoying warm weather and their time off from school. When kids are more active, though, they can be more vulnerable to potential injury. The nation’s emergency physicians are ready to handle any childhood emergency.

Of the 130 million visits to emergency rooms in 2010, almost 25 percent were made by children under the age of 18 and more of those emergency visits occur in the summer compared with the rest of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A trip to the emergency department for a sick or injured child doesn’t have to be a scary experience. It’s the responsibility of a parent or guardian to prepare for the visit ahead of time.

ACEP recommends 10 things you need to know when you take a child to the emergency department. 

1. If it’s a life–or-death situation, call 911. If it is safe to drive, remain calm and drive carefully.

2. Plan ahead. Where is the closest emergency department?  How would you get there in an emergency?

3. Communicate clearly to the emergency staff. Good communication on all fronts makes the process run more smoothly.

4. Bring a list of the child’s allergies and medications. Forms are available at www.EmergencyCareforYou.org (see Emergency Manual tab).

5. Bring the child’s immunization records and contact information for any physicians who may have treated them.

6. Provide consent-to-treat forms for those who take care of your child, (e.g., guardian, babysitter, daycare provider, school nurse.) You can download one by going to http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/MedicalForms/Default....

7. Explain to the child what is happening. Be sensitive to the situation and their age, but be honest. Keep communicating with them. Explain to them what may be confusing and reassure them the emergency staff is there to help them. Also, let the child know it is OK for the physician to examine them.

8. Don’t let a child eat or drink anything if you are taking them to the emergency department. If they have a condition that requires evaluation or specific treatment, the child may require certain medications or sedatives. Let the physicians recommend when it’s okay for them to eat or drink.

9. Bring a sleep-over bag in case the child is admitted to the hospital. This bag should include a change of clothes, pajamas and favorites objects of theirs like a small toy, a favorite blanket, a book or a stuffed animal.

10. Stay calm. Remember that kids feed off cues given by adults. If you are impatient and panicked, most likely the child will be as well.  Don’t add stress to an already stressful situation.

Taking a child to an emergency department is something you hope you never have to do. But being prepared both mentally and physically can help make a difficult situation much easier.

-- ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine.

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