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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 an ambulance is important. 

Signs that need your attention 

Many emergencies involve sudden injuries caused by bicycle or car crashes, falls, burns, near drownings, 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

  • Rhythmic jerking and loss of consciousness

  • Trouble with breathing or shortness of breath

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

  • 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

Steps to take

Consider this order:

  • Start CPR, if needed.

  • 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: Duldner, John E., MD, MS
Date Last Reviewed: 9/3/2015
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