Emergency Care For You

Health Tips

Children With Special Health Care Needs

Parents whose children have special health care needs already have a lot to cope with. Care of children with chronic medical illnesses or disabilities especially can be difficult in a medical emergency.

To make sure that vital information about a child's medical condition is available in an emergency, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have developed a new "Emergency Information Form for Children With Special Health Care Needs." The form contains important medical information, such as relevant medical history, critical actions to avoid, life-saving maneuvers or interventions, and allergies and medications/foods to avoid.

"This form will help ensure that every child's medical needs are quickly identified in an emergency situation," said Dr. Al Sacchetti of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Parents can ask their physician to complete the form and take it with them when they need to go to the emergency department — or register it with MedicAlert®."

Approximately 10.2 million, (which represents 15% of all U.S. children according to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (HRSA), in the United States) have special health care needs, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, asthma, hemophilia, autism, diabetes, and various genetic disorders. Almost every one of them is taken care of at home by their families.

"These children are at a disadvantage in the health care system, because important medical information may not be evident to a physician who has no prior experience with the child," added Dr. Sacchetti. "The problem is exacerbated by the fact that nearly 11 million children are uninsured in the United States. This means many children don't get adequate medical care until symptoms become acute, or they may get medical care from a variety of sources that don't communicate with each other."

The form can be obtained from ACEP's website and can be registered through MedicAlert® by calling 1-800-ID-ALERT (432-5378). It should be provided to all caregivers of children, such as babysitters, teachers, and school nurses.