Common Pediatric Questions

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Back to basics: How to Avoid Unnecessary ER Visits

A high fever, a deep cut, a wheezing cough, a painful sprain. These are the type of conditions that send a panicked parent to the emergency room. But is a trip to the hospital really necessary? Maybe. Maybe not. Often, a parent can avoid the time, expense and trauma of a trip to the ER by staying calm and effectively communicating with their child’s pediatrician or staff.


Q: How does a pediatrician help keep my child out of the ER?

Regular visits with a pediatrician are important for helping to maintain the child’s overall well-being as he or she grows. But it’s also very important when an unexpected illness or injury arises. Without an established doctor, a parent will have to take the child to a clinic or emergency room. Kids feel more comfortable in their familiar pediatrician’s office. And the pediatrician knows the child’s medical history, which is very beneficial.


Q: If I’m not sure whether an ER visit is necessary, what should I do?

Call your child’s pediatrician. Our office has 24-hour coverage with a triage nurse who can help parents know what action to take even if our office is closed. At Helgemo & Liou Pediatrics, we’re equipped to handle treatments in-house that most office don’t. For example, we can give stitches, treat minor burns and administer I.V. fluids.

It’s very important that you are with your child when you call. The pediatrician needs the parent to be with the child, so he or she can ask questions like, “How are they acting right now?” or “What is their coloring — pale, flushed, etc.?” This helps the doctor or nurse to make a more informed about the child’s condition.


Q: How can I best help my child when he or she is hurting?

Staying calm is extremely difficult for parents to do when a child is hurting. But it is the best way to help the child. Panicked parents have a hard time giving accurate information. One mistake parents make is to think that their child should act normal when they’re sick. If a child isn’t feeling well, he or she is going to be tired. That is to be expected. When the pediatrician asks questions, be as specific as possible. Instead of saying the child is “lethargic,” tell the doctor the child’s level of alertness and activity. Can the child walk? How much is he sleeping?

Take photos if appropriate. For example, if a patient falls and cuts her lip on a table, the pediatrician might ask the parent to take a photo and send it to him or her. This helps tremendously in helping the doctor evaluate whether a patient needs to go to the ER or can be treated in the office — or even at home.
When our child is sick or hurting, parents want them to feel better — immediately. And a trip to the ER might seem like the best way to do that. Sometimes, it is the best option. Often, however, the family pediatrician can provide the treatment and peace of mind everyone needs.