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Pediatric Emergencies

As a parent, it can be scary when your child is sick or hurt. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine what level of care is most appropriate — scheduling an appointment with their pediatrician or heading to the emergency room (ER). Pediatric specialist Lauren Moran, MD, sheds some light on when to take your child to the ER and what to expect when you get there.

Is It an Emergency?
Broken bones or large cuts or wounds that won’t stop bleeding are, of course, emergencies. However, there are several other reasons you should bring your child into the ER right away rather than waiting for a follow-up from your child’s pediatrician. One of these is if your child is acting altered in any way. This could be if they are lethargic, meaning you are unable to wake them; if they are having severe behavioral changes; if they pass out; or if they are acting confused.

Another reason to seek immediate medical attention is if your child is having difficulty breathing or if you are concerned about their hydration status. Kids can easily get behind in their fluid intake, particularly if they have persistent vomiting or diarrhea. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, making fewer tears when crying and only peeing once or twice a day. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, head to the ER.

If you have an infant who is less than two months of age, always bring them into the ER for fever equal to or greater than 100.4 degrees, as they are at high risk for a serious bacterial infection. 

We’re at the ER — Now What?
Kids are not just little adults and require special care. If you bring your child to the Progress West ER, they will be seen by a pediatric hospitalist, or a doctor that specializes in taking care of kids in the hospital. Many of the ER nurses also have pediatric experience. 

To begin, the team will need to examine your child and may use distraction techniques like a video on a phone or tablet. Your child might even be given a popsicle. Not only is it a fun treat, but if your child is able to tolerate a popsicle, the team then knows they will be able to stay hydrated at home. When it comes to procedures, numbing gels and medications to calm or sedate your child are also available to help make them more comfortable. 

The ERs at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters and Progress West Hospitals are open every day, 24 hours a day, to provide your child with exceptional emergency care if ever the need arises. Our easy online self-scheduling system, InQuicker, lets you wait at home and head to the ER knowing you are next in line. Access InQuicker at BJC.org/OnlineER.

Lauren Moran, MD, is a Washington University pediatric specialist on staff at Progress West Hospital.

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