As a parent, it can be difficult to know whether your child needs immediate medical attention or whether it’s safe to just “tough it out.” So the next time you think your child broke his arm, let’s discuss how to recognize an emergency and explore what you can do to help during a medical crisis.
Recognizing a Medical Emergency
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the following conditions are considered a medical emergency:
- Head/spine injury
- Burns or smoke inhalation
- Near drowning experience
- Ingesting a poisonous substance
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
- Severe abdominal pain
- Broken bones
- Fainting, dizziness, or weakness
- Changes in vision
- Confusion or changes in mental status
- Sudden or severe pain
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Suicidal feelings
- Difficulty speaking
Once you’ve identified the problem, you should ask yourself a few questions to help you determine whether your situation is a legitimate medical emergency.
Questions to ask when an accident occurs
- Is the problem life-threatening? Obviously this is a judgment call. A painful scrape can easily be treated without a doctor’s visit, but an open wound that won’t stop bleeding is a different story.
- Can I treat the condition at home? Chances are you probably don’t have a defibrillator in your medicine cabinet. When you can’t treat the problem yourself, it’s a good sign that you should go to an emergency center.
- Could moving the person result in further injury? These injuries are serious and require immediate medical attention. Examples may include severe head trauma or a neck injury.
- Will the condition get worse without proper treatment? Sometimes a simple Band-Aid® and a “boo-boo” kiss from mom are not enough. If symptoms show no signs of improving or if they could potentially get worse, then it’s time to get help.
Don’t risk it—if you have any doubts about your situation make sure you go to an emergency center immediately so a medical professional can determine whether your condition requires further action.
Now that you know how to identify an emergency, here are some things you can do to help.
What to do in a medical emergency
It can be quite alarming anytime your child becomes injured, but allowing a medical professional to administer care is perhaps the best thing you can do when an accident occurs. Assuming the role as “mommy doctor” may result in further injury or even death, so unless you’re certified in CPR or administering care during an emergency, it may not be safe to perform medical treatment yourself. This can be difficult to do in the heat of the moment, but it could save your child’s life.
Needless to say common sense is your best friend during an emergency. If there’s a chance you could become injured in the process of helping your child, secure the area from potential hazards before you rush into the scene. For immediate dangers (i.e. explosions, fire, a collapsing building, etc.), carefully escort your child away from harm and wait for help to arrive.
For more information about what you can do during a medical emergency, check out our post, “Keeping Kids Calm During an Emergency.”