When to Take Your Child to the ER

By Sherry Baker @SherryNewsViews
December 28, 2017
Doctor Wrapping a Patient's Hand in Gauze,high Angle View --- Image by © Odilon Dimier/PhotoAlto/Corbis

Parents can overreact to a minor accident — or not recognize the seriousness of other problems. So know when to take your child to the ER.

There’s no doubt trips to the emergency room (ER), also called the emergency department, save countless lives every year — including the lives of many children. Although ERs are geared to provide emergency care for those of all ages with acute and life-threatening health problems, ER use is highest among older adults and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In fact, when it comes to kids and the ER, about 20 percent of U.S. children age 17 and younger end up in an ER at least once a year — often not due to true emergencies but because their parents weren’t sure what else to do, putting a huge strain on healthcare providers and driving up the cost of healthcare across the country. In fact, one insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, is refusing to pay for non-emergency visits to the ER.


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Making the right decision about ER visits

"When young children experience urgent medical situations, parents have to make decisions about whether to administer first aid at home, call for advice, or seek emergency care," said University of Michigan professor of pediatrics Gary Freed, MD.

If you’ve ever struggled to decide if a choking episode, a small burn or other accident, or a health problem warrants home care or an immediate rush to the ER, a national survey of hundreds of American parents with young children — University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll On Children’s Health — shows you aren’t alone. And the results underscore the importance of understanding when to take your child to the ER and when other options are sensible.

"Our report suggests that some parents may be using the ER for common situations that could be handled at home,” said Freed, co-director of the poll. “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."


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February 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN