Children & Emergencies

As a parent, you certainly hope to never be in a situation where you need to take your child to the emergency room. But accidents and illnesses happen and it's much better to have a gameplan well before you're in a crisis situation with your child.

Who do I call?
What are some good reasons to go to the ER?
Should I drive to the ER or call 9-1-1?
How can I prepare for an emergency?

Who Do I Call?

  • If you believe your child's condition is life-threatening, call 9-1-1 or go straight to the closest ER. Make sure you know which ER is closest to your home and know how to get there. Learn more about the Swedish First Hill Pediatric ER.
  • If you feel the condition is not life-threatening, call your child's doctor first, even if it's after regular office hours. Your doctor can advise you about coming in to the office, waiting until the next morning if the office is closed or referring you directly to an emergency room.

What Are Some Good Reasons to Go to the ER?

  • Fainting, loss of consciousness
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision.
  • Change in mental status such as confusion, difficulty waking, a decrease in the level of consciousness or having uncontrollable agitated behavior.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or vomiting blood.
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea or blood in stools.
  • Severe cuts or lacerations where the edges won't come together or the bleeding won't stop after 10 minutes of applying pressure.
  • Problems with movement or sensation after an injury.
  • Severe headache accompanied with vomiting or a stiff neck.
  • A red or purple rash that doesn't disappear when pressure is applied to the skin.
  • A bulging or abnormally depressed fontanel (soft spot on the head) in infants.
  • Sudden severe pain anywhere in the body.
  • A head or neck injury with loss of consciousness or vomiting.
  • Severe burns of all types, including chemical and electrical burns, especially on the face.
  • Poisoning, caused by ingesting dangerous chemicals or medications. (Note: If possible, call the poison control center first at 1-800-222-1222 and ask for immediate home treatment advice. Preliminary home treatment could save your child's life.)
  • Convulsions lasting more than 15 minutes or any unexpected convulsions.
  • A serious animal bite which has broken the skin.
  • A worsening reaction to an insect bite, especially if breathing is difficult.
  • Difficulty or stopped breathing, uncontrollable choking, turning blue around the lips or a stopped pulse.
  • Signs of shock, including pale, cold clammy skin, and a weak and rapid pulse.

Should I Drive to the ER or Call 9-1-1?

If you answer "yes" to any of the questions below, or if you are at all unsure, call 9-1-1.

  • Is the child's condition life-threatening?
  • Could his condition worsen and become life-threatening on the way to the hospital?
  • Could moving the child require the skills or equipment of paramedics?
  • Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the child to the hospital?

How Can I Prepare for an Emergency?

  • Know which ER is closest to your home and how to get there.
  • Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit at home, work and in your car.
  • Learn basic first-aid skills and become certified in infant and child CPR via classes through your local Red Cross or American Heart Association. Infant CPR and Safety classes at Swedish.
  • Make sure your child's home and daycare environment are child-proofed.
  • Keep emergency numbers by the phone, such as police, fire department, poison control center, hospital, ambulance service, family doctors and emergency contacts. Keep your address and phone number by the phone as well.
  • Carry a list of your family's medications (with dosages) as well as a list of your family's allergies, particularly any drug allergies.