No matter what steps you take to protect your child, they are going to experience at least a few injuries and illnesses over the years. While the vast majority of those issues don’t require immediate medical assistance, you must keep an eye out for any signs that your child needs emergency care.
If your child seems completely out of it and isn’t responsive, then you must immediately head to an emergency room—but first, check to see if he or she is choking. Always check the basic vital signs first. The behavior could be caused by a blocked airway, stroke, a concussion, or some other issue caused by a head injury. That being said, lethargy isn’t always the result of a serious medical problem, and most urgent care centers can take care of basic illnesses or serious injuries that are not immediately life-threatening. A lack of energy is usually caused by the flu, mild dehydration, or a lack of sleep the night before. You will need to head to the ER if the lethargy is accompanied by general confusion, a fever, or nausea.
Almost every child will get their share of cuts and bruises, but if they are bleeding heavily you must do what you can to staunch the flow and call 911 immediately. Children are at a higher risk for complications due to blood loss, as they are much smaller than adults and often go into shock when undergoing a serious injury. If it’s something you can put a bandaid or larger bandage on, your child will probably be fine. If the child seems pale, dizzy, or if there are broken bones visible through an open wound, call 911.
Coughing can be caused by a wide variety of issues including allergens, a throat infection, or dry air. While you probably won’t need to worry about a few coughs or sniffles, you should note how long those symptoms last. If the coughs get worse or they develop a fever, then your child probably has some type of infection. At the urgent care, the medical team will be able to give your child a fever reducer and some type of painkiller. Also, try to determine the cause of the cough. A cough could be the indication of a harmless cold or allergy, but it could also indicate a severe allergic reaction that cuts off breathing, an object blocking the airway, or even a poisoning or drug overdose. Your child will not necessarily be able to tell you how he or she is feeling or what he or she has injected lately, so be aware of warning signs like unfocused eyes, a red face, an inability to communicate, or nausea and throwing up that seems unusual in the situation.
Sudden blindness or changes in vision, hearing, or speaking can indicate a more severe issue. Your children may not be able to articulate this change, so if you notice your child seems a bit less coordinated, is bumping into objects or is having difficulty hearing or responding to you, try to pay a bit more attention to them to discover the source of the issue. If these issues are not caused by exhaustion and are not improved by rest, try to get your child emergency help.
It can be scary to have an unexpected illness or injury strike a child, especially when you are unsure how dangerous it is. Remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you call 911, the operator will be able to guide you in taking care of your child while the emergency responders are on their way. In the meantime, take time to familiarize yourself with the Heimlich maneuver and how to perform CPR on children. And of course, pay attention to your child. The more you are aware of his or her normal behavior, the more you will be able to notice if anything is unusual about his or her behavior.