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Child Health Emergencies

Having a very sick or severely injured child is a parent’s worst nightmare. If it happens to your child, would you know the best way to go about getting treatment? Knowing when to call 911 is important. 

Signs that need your attention 

Many emergencies involve sudden injuries caused by bicycle or car crashes, falls, burns, non-fatal drowning (submersion injury), electric shocks, or poisoning.

If your child has any of the following signs or symptoms, remain calm, and call 911:

  • Unconsciousness, fainting, or no response when spoken to

  • Choking

  • Swallowing a poisonous substance and not acting as usual

  • Rhythmic jerking and loss of consciousness

  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath or not being able to speak more than 2 or 3 words

  • Skin or lips that look blue, purple, or gray

  • Vomiting blood

  • Increasing or severe lasting pain

  • Bleeding that will not stop or a cut that’s large, deep, or involves the head, chest, or belly

  • Neck stiffness or a rash with fever

  • Severe bleeding or head trauma

  • A burn that’s large or involves the hands, feet, groin, chest, or face

  • A change in mental status like suddenly becoming unusually sleepy or confused

  • A rapid heartbeat that doesn’t slow down

  • Confusion or strange, withdrawn, and less alert behavior 

Steps to take

Consider this order:

  • Start CPR, if your child is not breathing or doesn't have a pulse.

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.

  • Call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222, if your child has swallowed a medicine or poison.

If the condition is not life-threatening, you have time to first call your child's healthcare provider. He or she will be able to tell you what type of care is best for your situation. If you are not sure if the condition is life-threatening, call 911.

Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Pat F Bass MD MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2021
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