How to Know When to Take a Baby to the Emergency Room
Are you overreacting to a minor illness or injury, or does your baby need immediate medical attention? These guidelines will help you decide.
Step 1: If your baby is having difficulty breathing, is breathing noisily, or has a blue tinge to their skin, call 911.
TIP: Lift your baby’s shirt. If they’re using their stomach or neck muscles to breathe, it's an emergency.
Step 2: Take their temperature. If a baby three months old or younger has a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or more and is unresponsive or sluggish, go to the ER immediately. For a baby older than three months, take them if their fever is above 105 and they aren't responding normally.
Step 3: If a baby is crying inconsolably or cries even harder when you pick them up, get immediate help.
Step 4: Go to the ER if your baby's vomit is bloody or green, or has been throwing up longer than 24 hours. If it's an infant less than six months old, take them to the ER if they're vomiting forcefully no matter what.
TIP: If your baby has been vomiting and has diarrhea, pay attention to their urine output. If it’s much less than usual, they may be dangerously dehydrated.
Step 5: Know the difference between a baby who is tired and cranky due to a garden variety illness, and one who is dangerously ill. Signs of the latter include extreme lethargy, a baby who cannot be roused, and one who shows confusion.
Step 6: Call your doctor if your baby falls from a height of two feet or more, even if they show no sign of being injured. Call 911 if they are unresponsive, have a seizure, have blood or clear fluid leaking from their ears or nose, have bruising around the eyes or behind the ears, or become lethargic.
TIP: If an infant under two months old has a bruise on their head or swelling, it may indicate child abuse.
Step 7: Get emergency help if your baby gets a chemical burn, an electrical burn, or a second-degree burn, which is evidenced by blistering. Call 911 for any burn larger than the baby's hand.
Step 8: If you suspect your baby ingested poison or adult medication, call your local poison control center. They will instruct you as to whether you should call 911 or take your baby to the hospital.
FACT: The majority of pediatric emergency room visits are for non-urgent conditions, according to one study.