Understanding which symptoms call for a trip to the accident and emergency department of a hospital can mean life-saving time for your child.
The accident and emergency (A&E) is the paramount venue for serious injuries and ailments, such as severe infections, head trauma, intractable pain, airway and breathing difficulties, seizures (unless very brief), significant dehydration and noteworthy changes in behaviour and mentation.
Situations that call for a visit to the A&E:
• Respiratory distress: If your child is struggling to breathe, go directly to the A&E.
• Serious allergic reactions: If your child has eaten recently or has been stung by a bee, and suddenly has problems breathing or his tongue and lips have swollen, or he is vomiting and has diarrhoea, suspect a serious allergic reaction. The quicker the symptoms develop following exposure to the allergen, the greater the need to seek immediate medical attention.
• Burns and smoke inhalation: Any child who has suffered a burn larger than the size of the palm of the child’s hand, or a burn anywhere on the face, over joints, on hands and feet, or on the genitalia, should be brought to A&E. Children who have been exposed to large amounts of smoke or toxic gas in a house fire or closed-space fire should be brought to A&E for observation.
• Abnormal behaviour after an injury: If your child falls and isn’t acting like himself, even if he doesn’t seem hurt, go to the A&E.
• Near drowning: When a child has been submerged and revived by CPR, he should be brought to the ER.
• Head injuries: If your child loses consciousness following a fall or blow on the head, he needs to be checked for fractures and injuries to the brain. Even if a child hasn’t lost consciousness, take him to the hospital if he’s confused following a head injury, has a bad headache, or is vomiting.
• Seizures: A child who has never had a seizure or who has had one of much shorter duration should be brought to the A&E when the episode ends.
• Bone or joint injuries: The three hallmarks are pain, swelling and deformity. Usually, an emergency department is better prepared than a physician’s office to get immediate X-rays or to deal with complications.
• Deep or extensive cuts: Some require stitches to heal properly and with the least scarring. Generally a gaping cut that reveals deeper beneath the skin will need stitches. Hand lacerations are particularly tricky. Since the hands possess an intricate array of tendons, nerves and muscles, a deep cut on should be stitched in the A&E. If a wound is bleeding uncontrollably, you’ll need A&E personnel to get the bleeding under control.
• Permanent tooth knocked out: Place the tooth in milk or water and head for the A&E. The sooner the tooth is re-implanted, the more likely the procedure will work.
Did you know that you should call 998 if your child is choking, has stopped breathing, has suffered a severe electric shock or if you suspect a neck or spinal injury? Call if your child is in extremis (if he or she is poorly responsive), bleeding profusely or seriously injured. You should also travel by ambulance if there isn’t a calm adult driver available.