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Recognize when your child needs emergency medical care

Some symptoms or injuries require immediate medical attention or advice.

Keeping your child's scheduled doctor's appointments is a good practice. But knowing when to make an unscheduled visit to the doctor is also important.

You should always feel free to call your child's doctor if you have questions about an illness or injury.

The American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend seeking immediate medical attention if your child is experiencing:

  • Strange or withdrawn behavior or any significant change in behavior.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Excessive sleepiness.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Skin or lips that look blue or gray.
  • A seizure or loss of consciousness.
  • Severe headache or vomiting, especially after a head injury.
  • Neck stiffness with fever.
  • Increasing or severe, persistent pain.
  • Confusion or delirium.
  • Eating difficulties.

You should also seek medical attention if your child suffers a large burn or a burn on the face, chest, hands, feet or groin. All electrical and chemical burns should receive immediate medical attention.

If you think your child has swallowed poison or another person's medication, call a poison control center and a doctor immediately—even if your child has no signs or symptoms of poisoning.

In the event of an emergency involving your child, the AAP has this advice:

  • Try to stay calm.
  • Call 911 if you need help immediately.
  • Perform rescue breathing or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you know how and it is needed.
  • If there is bleeding, apply continuous pressure to the site with a clean cloth.
  • At the emergency department, make sure you tell emergency staff the name of your child's doctor.

While you hope your child is never involved in an emergency, recognizing serious symptoms and knowing what to do may just save your son's or daughter's life.

Reviewed 4/16/2024

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