When to take your toddler to the emergency room

Healthcare   |   Age: 1 year 7 months

When to take your toddler to the emergency room

No matter how careful a new parent - or even a not-so-new parent - is, when toddlers are involved, accidents happen. So do illnesses. Most fevers, sniffles, bumps, and bruises can be treated without having to venture further than your own medicine cabinet, but every once in a while, something comes along that needs a little professional help. What can be difficult, though, is figuring out whether that help can be a doctor’s appointment next week, or if it has to be an urgent care drop-by, or an emergency room visit.

Unless there’s an urgent emergency that needs immediate medical attention, calling your pediatrician’s office to talk through the problem is generally a pretty good place to start. Some parents worry about seeking medical help for a health problem that turns out not to be very serious, but healthcare professionals understand that it’s not always easy to tell what to worry about, and it’s always better to have something checked, even if it's found to be just fine, than to not get something treated that turns serious.

What counts as an urgent, emergency situation?

Most of the time, the best way to start figuring out what kind of care your child needs is to call her pediatrician, but some situations are urgent enough that it’s best to skip that step, and move right on to a quick drive to the emergency room, or even calling 911 (for those in the US) or your local emergency number. Situations that fall into this category include:

Emergency room or urgent care?

If your child is hurt or sick, it can seem like heading straight for the emergency room is the only responsible thing to do. But for more minor injuries or illnesses, an emergency room visit can actually cause as much harm as good, between the exposure to germs in the emergency room and the fact that a doctor in the emergency room is not your child's pediatrician, and may not be as familiar with her medical history.

There’s a reason that, for less urgent illnesses and injuries, it’s a good idea to start by calling your doctor. By waiting to come in for urgent care hours in your child’s pediatrician’s office, you’re more likely to find a healthcare provider who is experienced treating children, and one who has access to your child’s medical records. Urgent care is also often cheaper, and may mean less of a wait.


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