Report roundup: When should you take your child to the ER?

Parents often have to make immediate decisions about providing first aid at home or seeking emergency care for their children. This month’s Mott Poll report asked parents about how they would handle common medical situations that occur at home. Parents and media across the country have shared their thoughts on this topic. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.

First aid at home, or go to the ER?

When forced to make a quick decision about responding to a first aid situation with their child, many parents might be rushing to the ER for situations that could be handled at home. This was the focus of a CBS News story: Do you know when you should take your child to the ER? Reporter Ashley Welch noted that while parents might feel safer in choosing the ER, it might be harmful to delay care, such as a situation where their child is choking. “Our report suggests that some parents may be using the ER for common situations that could be handled at home,” says Mott Poll co-director and pediatrician Gary Freed. “True emergencies warrant hospital trips, but determining what is in fact an ‘emergency’ can be a confusing and nerve-wracking experience for parents who want to make the right decision.”

First aid confidence

Parents in the Mott Poll who had received first aid training were more confident they could handle their child’s first aid situations than parents who had not received any training. This was the focus of a Parents Magazine article: Do you know when you should really take your kids to the ER? Reporter Zara Husaini Hanawalt suggests parents talk with their child’s doctor about what to do in these situations and recommends all parents seek out first aid training. Dr. Freed notes that “more time-sensitive situations such as choking require that parents be knowledgeable and ready to act. First aid training can help parents manage urgent medical situation effectively.”

Tips for parents

If parents still aren’t sure what warrants a trip to the ER and what can be handled at home, University of Michigan pediatrician Dr. Kelly Orringer has some advice in a Michigan Health Blog piece: When should I take my child to the emergency room? Dr. Orringer suggests taking children to the emergency department if they are having difficulty breathing, for a severe allergic reaction, high fever with headache and a stiff neck, or a serious burn. Urgent care or the pediatrician’s office is the place to go for nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, coughs, colds and sore throats, and an upset stomach. Parents should call 911 if their child is choking, having severe difficulty breathing, has a severe burn, or bleeding that can’t be stopped. Dr. Orringer adds, “When you’re not sure what to do, call your pediatrician.”