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The following is a guest post by Aaron Braun, MD, the medical director at one of the four SignatureCare Emergency Center locations in Houston, TX.
Whether you are a first or a fifth time parent, a pediatric emergency can be a frightening ordeal. From high fevers to bone breaks, it can be difficult to keep yourself calm. However, during an emergency, remaining calm is exactly what your child needs. To help you stay in control, it is important that you prepare and plan as best as possible before an emergency occurs. Start by learning the most common emergencies that you may encounter as your child grows from infant to toddler.
Guide to Handling a Pediatric Emergency
Common Infant Emergencies
Inside of the average home there are many heat sources which can turn a normal day into a trip to the emergency center within seconds. From a baby's foot kicking over a hot cup of tea, serving them overheated food, to an accidental turn of the faucet to "hot", burns can happen no matter how careful you try to be.
Bruises and Breaks
As your baby gains mobility, it is very common for them to fall on, bump or roll into objects resulting in bruises, cuts and scrapes. Because of their lower bone density, it is much easier for babies to break bones when they fall than for a typical adult. For active and curious babies this injury is quite common, especially as they learn to walk.
Babies experience their surroundings best by touching, smelling and most often tasting the objects around them. Therefore, any medications or cleaning supplies left out or within a baby's reach could easily become an item of interest for them. If ingested, these items can have severe or even fatal consequences. For that reason, if you suspect that your child has ingested something they should not have, it is crucial that they are seen by a medical professional right away.
Unlike most adults, babies cannot communicate when they are feeling sick or describe to you their symptoms. Neither can they tell you when they are choking or having difficulty breathing, which can be brought on by illness, fever or the swallowing of a foreign object. By learning and monitoring your baby's breathing sounds and body movements you can recognize and have this emergency addressed without delay.
What You Can Do to Prepare
Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time, so it is important to be prepared beforehand.
Begin by becoming CPR certified. This life-saving tool will enable you to give your child the immediate care they need while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive. Also, learn how to clean and bandage cuts, scrapes and burns, and how to tell if the injury requires stitches or a visit to the emergency room.
Know Your Local Emergency Room
In an emergency situation, it is important that you know the exact location of the nearest emergency center and how long it will take you to get there. Not only will this eliminate wasted time searching for directions, but it will also help you determine if an ambulance should be called instead of driving your child yourself.
Have an Emergency Kit Ready
Whether at home, outdoors or on vacation it is good to have an emergency kit ready and stocked. Along with the peace of mind this will give you while out and about, it will also enable you to care for injuries right away. Your emergency kit should include the following items:
- Information about your child's medical history and medical records
- Sterile Bandages
- Squeeze-activated cold pack
- Any medication needed
- Your child's favorite toy
This is by far one of the hardest things for parents to do during an emergency. So what can you do to help yourself stay calm? Take a few deep breaths to help yourself gain control. Remember that you are setting an example for your child.
How you react to a situation is most likely how your child will react as well, both now and in the future. Therefore, help keep them calm by staying calm yourself. Not only will this help to make the situation less frightening for them, but it will also set a great example for them to follow.
Remember the Plan
During an emergency, don't forget the plan. Once developed, go over your emergency plan in your mind several times to ensure that it sticks even in the most overwhelming of situations.
Enlist the Help of Family or Friends
If the situation is too much to handle alone, don't be afraid to call on the people you know and trust to help you.
Be Careful Not to Increase the Risks
While it is understandable that you would be in a rush to get help for your child, remember that driving erratically to the emergency room may not only cause more of a delay, but could also have tragic consequences. To avoid additional problems, stay calm and drive responsibly.
An emergency can happen to anyone, but with proper planning and preparation you can stay in control of the situation and make it less frightening for everyone involved. Most importantly, your child will be able to get the help they need and in a timely manner.
Your planning, along with the help of a skilled emergency room staff, will give you peace of mind knowing that when emergencies do happen, your child will be in good hands.
In addition to these fantastic tips by Dr. Braun, a necessity to prevent an pediatric emergency is to adequately babyproof your home. To see if you've got your bases covered, be sure to read The Ultimate Baby Proofing Checklist. Wishing you and your family a safe and happy childhood!