It is a busy time of year for us in the ER business. Besides the usual injuries and illnesses, people fill the ERs in the evenings with worries that are NOT emergencies. The waiting rooms are clogged with milling crowds, often irate because of long waits, passing germs to each other, and most of those people could have stayed home and been fine.
Why are our evenings so busy? People get off work, come home to a sick child; now the doctor’s office is closed, so they bring the sick child (no matter how minor the illness) to the ER. Also, there is something about when the sun goes down that increases people’s worries. Minor illnesses are blown up to big worries in parents’ minds at night. Doctors’ phone services are also to blame. When some parents call their doctors at night, rather than go into a thorough conversation that can figure out the problem and help the family stay at home, the doctor or nurse just say “go to the ER.”
Here is a list of minor illnesses that should NOT be brought to an EMERGENCY department. When families with these complaints check in, other childrens’ care will be delayed while we wade through these non-emergencies: rashes (especially diaper rashes! In an Emergency Department?!), fever, cough and runny nose, sprains that the patient can walk on, car accidents that happened on a previous day, toothaches, pregnancy tests, diarrhea, vomiting only once or twice or less than a few hours, pink eye, pinworms, ear pain, sore throat. All of the above should wait to see your regular doctor the next day.
Here are some of the emergency versions of the above: shortness of breath, fever with worsening fatigue, abdominal pain with worsening vomiting and poor drinking, fever in a baby less than 3 months old, injury with deformity or inability to walk, worsening headaches with any of these.
This evening, do yourself and your ER workers a favor: call your doctor before coming to the crowded ER and waiting hours, if you are not sure if your child’s condition is an emergency.
Also, you can look to this blog to read about common illnesses and injuries, and how you can take care of things at home (look to the Categories column on the right side of this page). All the entries here talk about what can be taken care of at home, and how, and what makes your child’s problem a real emergency.