emergency room drivewayThe question of when a visit to the emergency room is warranted and when to just go to the doctor or wait it out is sometimes a difficult one, especially with children. According to Elda Ramirez, PhD, RN, you should bring your child in after an injury if you feel at all uncomfortable. She believes in trusting the parents’ instincts about their children’s health.

“You know your kid, how they respond, how they behave. Better to be sent home from the ER than to have wished you had made the trip,” says Ramirez, an associate professor of clinical nursing for emergency nurse practitioners at The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston.

The types of injuries or illnesses that can happen are many and each one must be assessed with care. These emergencies include, but are not limited to:

1.    Head injuries– any loss of consciousness, vomiting, sleepiness is a sign of a concussion and should be checked. Lacerations with head injuries indicate a hard impact and should also be attended to. But even without loss of consciousness, if your child just doesn’t seem to be “herself” could be a good enough reason for a visit to the emergency room.

2.    Bone and spine injuries– injuries of the spine, especially the neck should be examined by a doctor. Numbness, tingling or lingering pain is suspicious. Broken bones which are obvious, such as legs bent backwards or bones sticking up out through the skin not only require the emergency room, but transport there in an ambulance. If the tips of the fingers or toes or blue or whitish, this can indicate a break and needs immediate attention.

3.    Stomach ailments– don’t let a “mere stomach-ache” catch you off guard. Yes, usually it is just a tummy ache, but if there is severe vomiting or diarrhea in which fluids are not retained by the body, it is crucial that children or older people be seen within 24 hours. Dehydration can be life threatening, and can happen with lightning speed.

Josyann Abisaab is an Assistant Attending Physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where all these injuries and illnesses, and a lot more, are treated by her and the expert staff of doctors found there. The bottom line is to be cautious and alert to the signs of illness or serious injury, and respond responsibly and promptly.