Is it an Emergency?

Symptoms of Childhood Emergencies

Baby FootBecause their bodies are not finished growing and developing, children's medical problems often differ from those of adults. In addition, they may display different signs and symptoms from adults when they become injured or sick, and their treatments may differ too. For example, symptoms that are serious for a child, particularly a young child or an infant, may not be serious for an adult and vice versa. Additionally, an infant or child may not be able to communicate what's wrong, which means the parent must try to interpret the symptom or medical problem.

Seek immediate medical help if your child exhibits any of the following warning signs of a medical emergency:

  • Any significant change from normal behavior
    • Confusion or delirium
    • ecreasing responsiveness or alertness
    • Excessive sleepiness
    • Irritability
    • Seizure
    • Strange or withdrawn behavior
  • Severe headache or vomiting, especially following a head injury
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Inability to stand up or unsteady walking
  • Unconsciousness
  • Abnormal or difficult breathing
  • Skin or lips that look blue or purple (gray for darker-skinned children)
  • Feeding or eating difficulties
  • Increasing or severe, persistent pain
  • Fever accompanied by change in behavior (especially with a severe, sudden headache accompanied by mental changes, neck/back stiffness, or rashes)
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea

These symptoms are not intended to represent every kind of childhood medical emergency. You also can learn to recognize childhood emergency warning signs - and act on them - by taking a first aid class and learning CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Your local hospital, American Red Cross or American Heart Association may conduct courses in your area or can guide you to organizations that do.


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