When to Get Emergency Care for Your Child

Many minor injuries can be handled at home. But there are times when a trip to an emergency room (ER) is needed. For most of these situations, emergency medical services (EMS) should be contacted by calling911. EMS can generally start treatment on the way to the ER. If you think a situation may be urgent, call911.

Your child should go to the ER if they have any of these:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Coughing up blood 

  • Blood in poop (stool) or vomit

  • Blue or purple color to lips, skin, or nails

  • Severe chest or stomach pain or pressure

  • Severe or ongoing vomiting or diarrhea 

  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision

  • Loss of consciousness, confusion, or trouble waking up

  • Seizures

  • Animal, snake, or human bites

  • Severe pain

  • Loss of motion or feeling anywhere in the body

  • Severe bleeding or bleeding that does not stop after 5 minutes of direct pressure

  • Severe or large burns

  • Burns of the face, hands, feet, chest, or groin

  • Broken bones

  • Puncture wounds

  • Fever, neck stiffness, and severe headache

  • Overall ill appearance

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher in an infant younger than 2 months

  • Severe dehydration (sunken eyes, not peeing enough, not making tears, or lack of energy)

  • Head, spinal cord, or eye injuries

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as:

    • Hives

    • Swollen face, lips, eyes, or tongue

    • Fainting

    • Trouble breathing or swallowing

    • Wheezing

  • Exposure to poison. Follow instructions from the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

  • Hot or cold weather emergencies, such as frostbite or heat stroke

  • Any confusion, headache, or vomiting after any type of head injury that is ongoing or gets worse

  • Serious threats of self-harm

This is not a full list. There are other problems that may need emergency care.

Take your child to the ER any time you believe a child needs immediate medical care. Contact your child's healthcare provider for more information.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
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