Fever, cough, or vomiting: when to take a child to the emergency room

Unless we are of those perfect parents who dominate the secrets to their children never go bad , those who know exactly what humidity should have the room or you need to protect children up to the ears, it is usual that, sooner or later , the little ones are victims of a virus. Then the symptoms appear — fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea — and with them worry. From there to saturate the emergencies there is only one step.

“It is very difficult to establish when to take a child to the emergency department, ” acknowledges Javier Benito Fernández, president of the Spanish Society of Pediatric Emergencies (SEUP). And is that one thing is the clinical severity of symptoms and another that parents perceive , which can overload the waiting room of a hospital: “About half of the children who come are not reason for consultation emergency from a medical point of view, “says the expert, who recommends going to health centers earlier . “In most of them you can receive the appropriate treatments for the most common ailments,” he adds. So how do we know when to take them?

Fever is usually a symptom of an infection

“It is the most frequent reason for consultation. A quarter of children who go to the emergency department do so because of fever,” says Benito. It is not surprising that it is the fear of parents when they can provoke seizures , a common symptom that is not usually harmful to the child, they explain from the portal of the SickKids Hospital of the University of Toronto (Canada). Typically, it is not serious and going to the hospital depends, among other things, on the child’s age. ” Fever in a child younger than six months should concern us regardless of the amount, ” explains the expert. If the problem is urgent on a weekday and in the morning, it is best to go to the pediatrician or go to a health center. Otherwise, you will have to go to the emergency room.

” It is also a reason to consult a specialist if the child is under two years old and the temperature is above 39ºC , even if he has no more symptoms,” adds the specialist. In all other cases, “fever is usually a symptom of an infection like the flu.” Going to the emergency room will only be necessary when the child, in addition to having a fever, “is very low or has a very pale and different color than usual,” clarifies the expert.

In the face of vomiting and diarrhea, hydration is essential

These are two of the reasons that most often lead parents to the emergency room. Vomiting is very common and there are many different diseases that can cause it. “You have to worry when, in addition to vomiting, there is a significant decline and the child is very dull, ” says the pediatrician. The specialist also recommends going to the doctor when vomiting is green or bilious, if it is bloody, accompanied by very severe abdominal pain or the patient is a baby of less than three months . It is also advisable to go to the hospital in cases where they are very repeated and the child does not drink liquids.

As for diarrhea, Benito points out that it is convenient to go to the emergency department when the feces contain blood, the episodes are excessively continuous and if the child is depressed. ” It is not necessary to consult when these symptoms are isolated, you just have to give them liquids [to avoid the dehydration that it produces] and let them rest,” he adds.

With wounds and bumps, it depends on depth and inflammation

And if there is something that causes pain it is trauma. In the case of wounds, “it depends fundamentally on the depth and on how much they bleed , since that is what indicates whether it requires repair or not.” Regarding blows, which is one of the things that most doubts raise in parents because there are damages that are not seen with the naked eye, the specialist recommends going to the emergency department “when they have a lot of inflammation or there is some type of deformity. Also when the head has received the blow and symptoms like intense pain and vomiting appear “, clarifies the expert. As for the typical ones, children’s falls only justify a visit to the hospital when they have been of high intensity: “A fall on a bike or from a great height,” concludes the doctor.

“In the case of pain, it depends,” says the expert. “If it is not intense and is relieved with the usual pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen …) it is not necessary to consult,” he says. If it persists, Benito recommends going to the health center or pediatrician during normal hours. So when should we go for pain? “If it is very intense or is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting or urinary discomfort.”

Rarely should you end up in the ER with a cough

“Cough is a minor symptom,” explains the SEUP president. It will only be necessary to go to the emergency department “if it is accompanied by respiratory distress or if it occurs when choking on food or a toy,” he continues. From HM Hospitals they also recommend consulting when it comes to a “doggy” and nocturnal cough, or if it is accompanied by fever.


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