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Why Kids Visit the Emergency Department and What Parents Need to Know


Tips from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Medication Overdose/Poisonous Ingestion:

Parents should first call poison control because they will be able to tell you if it is a serious ingestion and if the child needs to go to the Emergency department. Poison control also will be able to direct parents as to what they can do immediately at home or on the way to the Emergency department. Parents should bring all materials, including medication or household products they believe their child ingested.

Head Injuries:

Parents should immediately take children to the Emergency department for any falls more than 10 feet. In addition, if a child suffers a high-energy or high-impact fall, he needs to be taken directly to the Emergency department. These types of injuries include: a fall from a grocery cart, hit with a baseball or being involved in a car accident. Parents should monitor loss of consciousness, if the child is having severe headaches, trouble staying awake, vomiting, change in behavior or acting out of the ordinary.

Broken Bones/Falls:

If a child falls and has persistent pain in any body part, he should be seen immediately in the Emergency department because he could have a broken bone or sprain. If the child has an accident, or seems to be in serious pain and is not moving a body part normally, he should be taken directly to the Emergency department. Sprains and broken bones should be treated immediately to prevent permanent growth damage in pediatric patients.


If a laceration is more than a little cut and continues to bleed, parents should immediately apply pressure and take their child to the Emergency department. At home, parents can clean the cut or wound and apply direct pressure on the way to the hospital. If the cut is too large or bleeding cannot be controlled by pressure, parents should call 911 immediately to prevent excessive blood loss.

Foreign Object Stuck/Swallowed Objects:

Parents should first identify the object their child has swallowed or has lodged in a body part. If the child is having trouble breathing or gagging, parents should call 911 immediately—otherwise seek emergency care so physicians can determine where the object is located and if the object will be passed naturally or if the object needs to be removed. X-rays and a full body exam will ensure the object is not affecting breathing, digestion or organ function.

Tooth Injury:

If a baby tooth is knocked out, it is typically not a medical emergency and parents should monitor their child’s pain and behavior. However, if an adult tooth is knocked out, damaged or causes pain to the jaw or gum line, parents should immediately seek emergency care for their child. Pediatric patients have very little time to have a tooth teeth replaced before they loose the tooth permanently. Within half an hour after injury, the child should be seen. In order to keep the tooth alive, parents should place it back into the child’s mouth, in the original socket, or in between the cheek and jaw line. The child should be taken immediately to the Emergency department.


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