Knowing When to Seek Urgent Medical Attention For Your Child

General Medical

Dr. Nikki Stamp

From my time working in children’s hospitals, I know how hardy kids can be. As a parent, deciding when your child is sick enough to make the trip to the emergency department can be difficult. However, there are some things that should make you take the cautious route and head into hospital.

When it comes to kids, the general rules for heading to the ED include being particularly lethargic, not drinking or weeing much, looking particularly pale or dusky as well as your own worry are good rules of thumb. Here are a few more specific problems you need keep in mind.


Fevers are pretty common in kids, with their frequent exposure to viruses and other common infections at schools or day care. It’s actually part of our body fighting off an infection and in and of itself, isn’t actually a disease. To make your child feel better, you can give a simple over the counter medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen and ensuring plenty of fluids are given. Avoid aspirin in children as it can have serious side effects.

We tend to be a bit more worried when the temperature is over 39 degrees Celsius (over 38 degrees if they’re younger than 3 months), or its associated with a first ever febrile convulsion (seizure), they’re very drowsy, they have a new rash, are struggling to take or keep down fluids or they start getting shivers.

Breathing troubles

Especially in the winter months, kids can get a whole host of viral infections. Sometimes this can lead to breathing difficulties with illnesses like croup, bronchiolitis or making asthma worse. If you notice your child is working hard to breathe by breathing rapidly, with the muscles around the mouth, neck and nose helping the breathing or they have a cough that makes them struggle to breath, they need to be checked out. Kids with noisy breathing or other associated problems like drowsiness or looking a bit dusky around the lips need a review quickly too.

Broken bones, cuts and burns

Owing to their playtime, kids often bump and scrape all kinds of things. If your child doesn’t want to use their injured limb, have hit their head, or have a noticeable deformity, it’s worth getting them checked. Cuts that are large, deep, bleeding profusely or occur on the face may need a surgeon’s review via the emergency department.

When it comes to burns, kids are especially prone to problems afterwards like losing body temperature or fluid. After first aid (running cool water for at least 20 minutes), any burns that are deep, involve sensitive areas (face, hands, feet, genitals), larger burns or any burn in kids under one year old definitely need seeing to.

Mum or dad are worried

This is an important point. If your child is out of character for them, that can be an important reason to head into hospital. Since children can’t always tell us what exactly is the matter, the observations of parents can be so important. So, trust your own instincts when you think something is wrong and get everything checked out. Better safe than sorry is always a good rule of thumb.

Where to get more information

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can read some more information at Health Direct or of course your GP, your local hospital or child health nurse are great resources when you’re worried. 


Please note: Dr. Nikki's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

HIF Health Insurance

At HIF we try to promote healthy lifestyles for our members, which is why we created this Healthy Lifestyle blog. Concerned about your and your family's health? Take a look at our award-winning health insurancehospital cover and extras cover options.

Add a Comment

  1. Enter your comments


Your details