If your child is sick, how can you tell if they need to go to the ER or see a pediatrician immediately? The question confounds many parents, especially those with younger children who cannot articulate the severity of their symptoms. Conventional wisdom says to play it safe. A trip to the ER that does not result in hospital admission or treatment can still be well worth the peace of mind. But then again, trips to the ER can be stressful and expensive, so it’s worth your while to know roughly what symptoms can stay at home and what symptoms can’t.
Running a fever is one of the most common childhood ailments. Many parents instinctively check the thermometer at any sign of trouble, and start to worry if a child’s temperature creeps above 102°. A high fever alone, however, does not necessarily mean danger. If your child can still eat, drink, and respond to you, chances are they’re okay. If they seem disoriented or have other concerning symptoms coupled with their fever, it might be time to seek medical advice.
Stomach bugs, whether they manifest through diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or any other symptoms, are also common among kids. Typically they are temporary and not that serious, but in some cases they can lead to rapid dehydration, a more insidious problem. If your child is losing a lot of fluid, they can dehydrate in as little as a few hours. In these cases you may need to go the ER for IV fluids or medicine that will allow them to keep fluids down.
Bug bites, rashes, and allergic reactions affect many healthy kids, but larger rashes that extend over multiple areas of the body are a cause for more concern. Rashes accompanied by other symptoms like fever or weakness also require immediate attention. And if you live in a woodland area with a tick population, don’t ignore the prospect of lime disease; look for a ring-shaped bite.
There are always steps you can take before deciding to go the emergency room. If you have a family physician who’s on call for you, talk to her or him before you jump in the car. Searching online about symptoms a good resource, but can sometimes feed your concern; if trying to figure things out online, make sure you only surf trusted medical sites. Ultimately, you should trust your judgment above all.