Rise and Shine shared in its blog that going to the emergency department is a scary and overwhelming experience for both parents and children. We have outlined some things to consider before you go as well as what to expect once you are there to try to make your experience as smooth as possible for you and your child.
First, call your doctor
Unless your child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, we encourage you to first call your doctor before taking them to the emergency department. Your doctor can help you decide if it is truly necessary for you to go to the emergency department, or if there are things that you can do at home to help your child. It is also helpful for your doctor to know what is going on so that they can check up on your child to see how they are doing.
How to prepare
- Remain calm: Going to the emergency room can be very stressful, but if you remain calm, your child will be more likely to stay calm as well.
- Tell your child what to expect: It is best to explain to your child what they can expect to happen before they get to the emergency room. Knowing what is about to happen can help to relieve their anxiety around the situation.
- Bring a comfort object: If your child has a special, loved object, such as a stuffed animal, blanket, or toy, it can be helpful to bring this with you to help them feel more comfortable being in a new and scary place.
- Consider snacks: You may be waiting in the emergency room for a long time with limited food available. If you know that your child likes to snack, consider bringing some with you. However, you must first confirm with your child’s provider that it is safe for your child to eat and drink before giving them any food.
- Healthcare information to bring: Make sure you bring your child’s insurance card with you. It can be helpful to bring your pediatrician’s contact information and your child’s vaccination records as well, though this is not required.
- Limit the number of people with you: Emergency departments often consist of small rooms with limited seating. If you can avoid it, try not to bring many people with you.
Once you arrive
- Triage: Your first stop will be triage and registration. While you are here, a nurse will ask some questions to understand what is going on and how quickly your child needs to be seen by a medical provider in the emergency room. The nurse will also take your child’s vitals — temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight.
- Waiting: Once you have been seen by the triage nurse, you will wait to be taken through to the emergency department. Wait time can be very variable and unpredictable depending on how sick your child is, how many other people are there and how sick other children are. The children with the most serious and life-threatening medical conditions are always evaluated first. If you find yourself waiting for a long time, this is actually a good thing because it means that your child isn’t seriously ill or hurt! However, if you notice that your child is becoming sicker or that their condition is worsening while you are waiting, you should alert the triage nurse.