Does Your Child Really Need to Go to the E.R.?
Dr. Lara Zibners, author of If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay, explains when it's safe to handle a problem at home and when you should call your pediatrician.
Dr. Lara explains that one of the most common problems she sees is non-food items swallowed by kids. "They like to put things in their mouths - they’re exploring the world," she says. "And they sometimes swallow things that shouldn’t be there." Coins are very common, according to the doctor, who says that if it's smaller than a quarter it will probably go down without causing any problems. But if the object is bigger than a quarter or if it's obstructing the child's breathing or swallowing, call 911.
Dr. Lara adds that you should always call your doctor if a small disk battery is swallowed or stuck up your child's nose because batteries leak and that fluid can cause tissue damage.
Bumps on the head
"I’ve never seen a kid get a really serious head injury from just playing," Dr. Lara shares. "They’re meant to hit their head, that’s what they do. We have a rule: If your child is under three months and they fall over three feet, call your pediatrician - you're probably going to go in." Dr. Lara says that if you have a toddler who was knocked out or having a seizure due to a bump on the head, immediately call your doctor.
"Everyone thinks that their kids have too many colds, but on average 10 viral illnesses [go around] each year," Dr. Lara says. "Make your kid comfortable, give them some pain medicine, make sure they're getting enough fluid and just weather through the storm."
Foreign contaminants in the eye
If your child gets some glitter, makeup or other substance in their eye, you'll want to wash the eye out. "If you have saline because you wear contacts, great, if you have tap water, fine - it's more important the volume you use to wash the eye out," Dr. Lara says. "If it's a chemical in the eye, you should wash for a solid 10-15 minutes while you're getting your stuff together to go to the hospital. If it's just glitter or a little something, maybe one squirt bottle is all you need to get it out." Dr. Lara recommends laying your child on their side and aiming the water at the nose just to the side of the eye because it will run straight down over the eye. "If you squirt right in the eye they're going to start blinking and fighting."
"Kids get nose bleeds all the time," Dr. Lara says. "People think you're supposed to put ice on the back of the neck and hold their head back - that's wrong." She advises taking a kitchen towel and pinching the nose with the child's head forward. "You're putting direct pressure on those blood vessels. Stay there for 10 minutes, and if you want, give them a bucket or another towel to spit into because the blood will be coming out." Dr. Lara says that almost all nosebleeds are going to stop within 10 minutes, but if it hasn't stopped after 10-15 minutes, call your pediatrician.
To aid in determining whether or not your child has a sprained or broken body part, Dr. Lara's rule is : "When everything hurts, nothing is broken usually, but when the same spot hurts over and over, that's more likely to be a broken bone."
"We should think of fever as a symptom, not a disease," Dr. Lara says. "Fever is your body's way of kicking in the immune system - your brain tells your fever center to jack up the temperature because you have something to fight off. If your child is under 3 months and has a fever, you should call your pediatrician. If he's over 3 months, it depends on how your child is acting: If your child is reasonably playful, and drinking, breathing comfortably after you've given a little over-the-counter fever medicine, then the fever is not what you should be scared of."
However, Dr. Lara adds that you should be concerned and call your doctor "if breathing has become a job ... when a kid is really sleepy, lethargic, irritable even when the fever is down (because the fever can be responsible for making them look that bad)." She adds that fever makes you dehydrated and you burn through more fluids, so if your kid has a fever, stay on top of the fluids and make sure that you're keeping them well hydrated.
"Ice should never go directly on your skin," Dr. Lara says, "because just like you can burn yourself with fire, you can burn yourself with ice. Whether you're using ice bags or a bag of frozen peas, wrap it in a dish towel and leave it on for 15 minutes. If it starts to hurt worse, take it off."
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