Knowing what to do when you have to rush a child to the hospital — and what you should bring along — can make the experience much safer and less stressful. Emergency physicians suggest the things you need to know if you have to take a child to the emergency room:
• Plan the logistics ahead of time, before an emergency occurs. Where is the closest emergency department? How would you get there in an emergency? Have a plan and keep it at hand.
• If it's a life-and-death situation, call 911. Your instincts may be to jump in the car, but it may be faster and safer to have help come to you.
• If possible, bring the child's medications, immunization records, medical history records and contact information for any doctors/pediatricians who may have treated him or her, as well as a record of recent physician visits. Gather all of this information in one spot so it is easy to access in an emergency. Consider storing some of it in a laptop or cell phone.
• Explain to the child what is happening. Be sensitive to the situation and their age, but be honest. Keep communicating with them. Explain what may be confusing and reassure them that the emergency staff is there to help them.
• Have a list of any allergies the child may have. Don't rely on memory; you want to provide the exact names of the drugs and dosages.
• Don't let your child eat or drink anything. If your child has a condition that requires evaluation or specific treatment, he may need to take certain medications or sedatives. Let the physicians recommend when it's okay for him to eat or drink.
• Bring a sleepover bag in case the child is admitted. This bag should include a change of clothes, pajamas and favorite objects (such as a small toy, favorite blanket or book).
• If someone is watching your child (guardian, babysitter, day care provider, etc.), be sure they have a consent form in their name in case of an emergency. You can download one by going to the Web site of the American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation, emergencycareforyou.org, and clicking on "Emergency Manual." The site also offers additional information and tips.
• Stay calm. Kids feed off cues given by adults. If you are impatient and panicked, the child will be as well. Try not to add stress to an already stressful situation.