To Go or Not to Go :: The Emergency Room Conundrum


Disclaimer: Anna is NOT a physician. If you have any doubts about whether or not your child is at serious health risk, please call your physician. These are just tips from an experienced mom with doctors in the family.  

I am a lucky gal to have some great doctors in my family. Among them are a couple of ER doctors. My uncle, for one, saved my sister’s life after a supposed urinary tract infection left her with a burst appendix. (We’ve learned since that this is an easy misdiagnosis.) I don’t have a scientific bone in my body, but I’ve chatted with my family, and below are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether an ER trip is pertinent.

Kid ER

Allergic Reactions

A bug bite will always cause a local reaction. But, if the redness spreads, administer benadryl for three days and call your pediatrician because he or she will need to provide more meds for 48 – 72 hours after the initial reaction to prevent a second and more severe reaction. However, if there is any respiratory distress, go! Respiratory distress is wheezing, shortness of breath, visible use of the chest muscles with breathing, and a throat closing up. Also, any time the tongue, lips, or eyes begin to swell (especially after ingesting food), call 911.

You can read more here about Emily Y’s experience with food allergies and here regarding our run in with medicinal allergies.


True fever in the ER and at the Pedi is above 100.4. Fever is actually good for your child because it fights bacteria and virus, so your child will get well sooner rather than later. However, the fever itself will hurt you at 106.7. If your child has a fever of 105, you should ALWAYS go to the ER. Use your mama gut.

A fever of 101 does not necessitate a midnight visit to the ER.


Sunburns: Aloe Vera gel, oatmeal baths, and anesthetic spray will help you or your child feel like new in a few days.

Chemical burn (acid, bleach, etc.): Rinse immediately and continuously with water for 15 minutes while someone else calls Texas Poison Control (1-800-222-1222). Poison control will tell you exactly what to do.

Thermal burn (steam, fire, hot metal, fireworks): If the burn is small, does not cross a joint, has no bulla (big bubbles), and if its pain is manageable, you’re fine. In addition, if your tetanus is up to date, you should be fine. If it crosses a major joint, you can get a contracture (skin hardening causing the joint to move less easily), and you’ll need to go to the ER and eventually a burn specialist.

Over the next few days, keep an eye out for a skin infection.


If your child is experiencing lethargy and a dry mouth, go to the ER. These are symptoms of dehydration.

Head Injuries

Under 2: If your child is acting normally (not lethargic), he or she has a knot on the forehead, and if he or she has not lost consciousness, you can stay home.

Between 2-18: If he or she has a normal mental status, did not pass out, is not vomiting, does not have a severe headache nor any signs of basilar skull injury, and it wasn’t something severe (bull riding, car ejection, being hit with a 4×4, etc.), you can stay home.

If you witness opposite symptoms in your children, GO. When in doubt, GO!

If you stay home, watch closely and ask these questions:

  • Is he or she acting normally?
  • Does he or she have stroke-like symptoms?
  • Is he or she vomiting (ages two and up)?
  • Is one pupil bigger than the other? Note: No one really sees this until he or she is close to death.
  • Wake him or her every two hours all the way to make sure he or she is responsive.

Swallowing Stuff

If what was in your child’s mouth, comes out, he or she is fine.

If your child has a choking episode and you don’t see anything coming out, go.

If your child is having respiratory distress, call 911.

If he or she has a choking episode and you aren’t sure it came out EVEN WITHOUT RESPIRATORY DISTRESS, go (food, coins, toys, etc.). Your child will need an X-ray to make sure the object/food isn’t in his or her esophagus or trachea.

If your child is old enough to say he or she feels like something is in the throat, go!

Here’s the deal: Medical advice from doctors will often be different. Doctors and nurses aren’t gods, and good ones will tell you that! If your mommy gut is telling you to GO, take your child to the ER. Cook Children’s is a great place, but any hospital in our grand city can assess your child well. If it is serious, you will then be sent to Cook’s.

Has your child ever visited the ER? What prompted you to call 911 or take them to the ER?



  1. We took our son to our neighborhood ER this weekend. He had a horrible rash covering his entire body and it just looked so bad, we didn’t want to wait until Monday to see his pediatrician…we are a “if in doubt go” kind of family:)


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