When should I take my child to the doctor?
Each year, nearly 22 million children under the age of 15 require emergency care in the US due to injury or illness. Fortunately, many of these visits may be preventable.
- Injuries sustained in accidents, falls or being hit and Poisoning, which is rapidly becoming more common. This is why you should make a special effort to keep medications, cosmetics and personal care product, cleaning solutions, pest control (from roach killer to mosquito repellent), antifreeze, and garden products should be stored securely. Even some kids' art and craft supplies may have the potential to poison if not used correctly.
- Lung-Related Disorders like asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. Asthma may be triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke, pollution, dust mites, mold, pets or roach droppings.
- Nervous System Disorders such as concussions (often, sports or playground related) and seizures.
- Infections such as stomach flu and MRSA (bacterial) or giardiasis, pinworms, head lice and scabies (parasitic). Prevention measures include vaccines, washing hands well and often with soap and warm water, making sure that foods and the home are clean. Also, stress to children that they avoid swallowing pool, lake or stream water when swimming.
- Vomiting, Diarrhea, Severe Stomach Pain and other Digestive Disorders. Of special concern is Appendicitis which can quickly become life threatening without proper medical attention.
- Burns, Rash, Eczema and Allergic Reactions and other Skin Disorders.
- Behavioral and Mental Health Conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis and self-harm behavior. School performance and social interactions can be indicators of mental health issues.
- Sprains, Broken Bones, or Head Injuries which often result from falls or sports.
- Urinary and Reproductive Disorders including urinary tract infections or blockage, kidney failure and birth abnormalities. These are often detected when diagnostic tests are run when a child complains of itching or burning during urination, unusually discharge or strong odor.
- Endocrine Disorders such as diabetes. Tip: parents should test a diabetic child's blood sugar (and treat accordingly), monitor their diet and encourage physical fitness.
Getting ill and injured children the emergency care they need.
Children are physically, psychologically and physiologically different from adults so emergency care providers are trained not only to recognize the difference ways that children's bodies respond to traumatic injury and illnesses, but also to communicate and comfort young patients effectively.
"People need to know how to respond when a child may need emergency care," said Brad England, executive director of Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services in Houston, TX. "Call 9-1-1 at once if the child's condition is -- or could become -- life-threatening; if moving the child could cause additional injury; and if the child needs the skills or equipment that only trained care providers can access."
When in doubt, make the call. The 9-1-1 dispatch center should be able to help in sorting out what kind of emergency help is needed.
"It certainly isn't easy to be calm when a child has been injured or is in pain," England continued, "but this is important both to help keep the child reassured and comforted and to be able to provide accurate information about the illness or injury to paramedics or emergency room personnel."
"During the summer months, youngsters are subject to all kinds of accidents and injuries which require immediate, skilled care and attention. These include bike crashes, near drownings, fireworks injuries and burns, and the gamut of cuts, scrapes and broken bones."
Sometimes it is hard to know when a child suddenly needs medical care outside of the obvious indications like unconsciousness or severe bleeding after a car or bike accident.
There is, of course, no way to keep kids absolutely safe from illness or injury, but a healthy dose of prevention can go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of injury occurring. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents can help "child proof" their homes by eliminating the dangers -- especially by securing poisonous chemicals and firearms completely out of a child's access.
"We also encourage parents to discuss safety issues when leaving their children in the care of others, whether it is for just a few minutes or for all day," England advised.
"Be sure you go over emergency procedures with any new baby-sitter so they will know what you expect them to do if the need arises. Leave your emergency phone or pager numbers where you can be reached, as well as the phone number of your pediatrician or family doctor," he said.
Sources: yourfamilyshealth.com: Emergency Medical Care for Children