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Know Where to Go: a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician’s Perspective

As a pediatric emergency physician, I often get asked the same question: should I take my child to the pediatrician, or do they need to go to the ER? The best place to start is with a call to your pediatrician’s office, many of whom have a nursing triage hotline or a doctor on call who you can talk to. You should also take this time to ask yourself whether your child has been immunized against common viruses and illnesses. If the answer is yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief since you have already protected your child from some of the most invasive deadly diseases out there. Once your child is 3 months old and has received the first round of immunizations, the risk of a serious bacterial infection drops dramatically to almost nonexistent.

Fever is one of the most common reasons parents bring their children to the ER. That’s the right thing to do if your child has a high fever, or any fever if he or she is under 2 months old. If your child has a mild or moderate fever and he or she is older than 1, try the pediatrician first. The pediatrician should also be your first stop for cough, constipation or diarrhea, ear pain, a sprain or minor pain, vomiting, mild rash or skin irritation, or changes in asthma peak flow readings. If your child has an animal or human bite, an asthma attack, a deep cut or bleeding that won’t stop, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, numbness of the face, arm or leg, seizures, severe stomach pain, a fracture or broken bone, or is coughing or vomiting blood, take them to the nearest Children’s Emergency Center immediately.

The most important rule of all? Parents should always trust their gut. If you think it’s an emergency, bring your child to see us in the ER. Our team of experts will make sure your child gets the high quality care he or she needs. We’ve gone through more than a decade of training, including specifically in pediatric emergency medicine, so you can trust us when we say that we’ve got your back.


Daniel Thimann, MD, FAAP
Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician
Wolfson Children’s Hospital
Emergency Resources Group

Daniel Thimann, MD, FAAP