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Your Child's Health: Using the Emergency Room Wisely

Table of Contents


What is the emergency room (ER)?

An emergency room (ER)—or emergency department—is a place where you go for a medical emergency. It's not for routine health care. An ER is often open 24 hours a day. You don't need an appointment.

When should you use the ER versus urgent care?

It may not be clear when your child needs to go to the ER. It can help to think about how bad the injury or symptom is. Often the more symptoms your child has, the more serious the problem is.

If your child is younger than 3 months old and has injuries or symptoms you're concerned about, take them to the ER right away.

When to use the ER

Severe or life-threatening injuries or symptoms need care right away. The problem may be severe or life-threatening if your child:

When to use urgent care

Mild-to-moderate injuries or symptoms need care soon. The problem may be mild or moderate if your child:

What might you think about before taking your child to the ER?

Most health problems aren't emergencies. But sometimes the ER may be the quickest way to get the care your child needs.

If you're not sure about how serious your child's symptoms are or where to take them for care, it's okay to take them to the ER.

Before you go to the ER, you might ask yourself:

Know that if you go to the ER for a problem that's not an emergency:

How can you prepare for your child's ER visit?

Try to stay calm. This can help your child be calm too. Here are some ways you can help yourself and your child.

Credits for Your Child's Health: Using the Emergency Room Wisely

Current as of: August 8, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff (
Clinical Review Board (
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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