When To Take Your Child To The Hospital


It can be difficult to know whether your child needs immediate care from a professional or a little TLC from you at home. It's not easy figuring out how sick they are and if it warrants a trip to the ER or not! For the most part they have no idea what they are feeling and they can't communicate something they are unsure of; so it's up to us, the parents, to know when it's time to seek professional care.

We recently took Maddie - our 14 month old daughter - to the Emergency Room for a temperature of 105.8. She was her usual self the day before, a little sooky that night, and by mid-afternoon next day she was boiling like a little teapot left on the stove. Before I took her temperature I knew she had a fever but I had no intentions of taking her to the ER. I was taught never to abuse the medical system, and ways to self treat at home (unless it was life or death). However, I knew a temp that high in Maddie's case could be life or death, so we took her in. Thankfully she turned a corner late that evening and never made it passed the ER waiting room, but why chance it right? 

There are times when your child doesn't need to see a professional, times when all they need is you, water, rest, and to wait it out. Then, there are other times when its better to be on the safe side and to seek immediate medical attention. I've compiled a list of the most common reasons your child should seek medical attention, this list does NOT include every possible reason, but merely the most common. I am not a doctor, and use your judgement. 



A mild fever is generally easy to treat at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications. However, sometimes a fever can be an indicator of a more serious infection. 

If your child is less than 3 months old, visit the ER if their temperature is above 100.4 degrees. You should also seek emergency care if your child’s fever is accompanied by these symptoms: 

  • Difficulty waking up to be fed.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Rash.
  • Vomiting.
  • Inconsolable or non-stop crying. 

If your child is between the age of 3 months and 3 years, visit the ER if their temperature is above 102.2 degrees, or if they are displaying these symptoms: 

  • Difficulty waking up.
  • Not urinating.
  • Unable to keep fluids down.
  • Inconsolable.
  • Not up to date on immunizations.
  • Difficulty breathing. 
  • Rash

If your child is 3 or older, visit the ER if the child’s temperature is over 102 degrees for two or more days. You should also seek emergency care if the fever is accompanied by any of these symptoms: 

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Unable to keep fluids down.
  • Burning during urination or does not urinate.
  • Rash.
  • Stiff Neck.
  • Difficulty waking up.
  • Not up to date on immunizations. 

Trouble Breathing  

A high pitch, noisy, grunting, or wheezing sound can indicate your child is struggling to breathe. The chest will look sucked in with a lot of belly movement. Most cases for this are asthma attacks or respiratory infections. If your child is having trouble breathing their condition will deteriorate very quickly; seek immediate medical attention if:

  • If your child is 0-12 months and taking in more than 60-70 breaths a minute.
  • If your child is 1-2 years and taking in more than 40 breaths a minute.
  • If your child is 2-4 years and taking in more than 30 or more breaths a minute.


Children can become dehydrated from a number of things, but most commonly from excessive vomiting or diarrhea. When anyone becomes dehydrated it prevents blood from nourishing the body. Signs that your child needs intravenous fluids include:

  • Decreased urination (fewer than 2 diapers a day)
  • A sunken soft spot on the head. (Pulsing is normal in babies under 9 months)
  • A sticky mouth
  • Tear-less crying 
  • Sunken eyes with dark circles
  • Clammy Skin
  • Paleness
  • Lethargic 

Unconscious / Seizure

Get immediate help for a child who's unconscious or having a seizure that involves going limp or stiffening and jerking, with eyes rolling back or staring. About 5 percent of young children are prone to febrile seizures. This frightening response to fever is almost always harmless, but a child's first seizure should be treated as an emergency to rule out a more serious problem.

Injuries and Falls

While most parents panic when their child falls off the bed, it's usually not a cause for alarm. If they are crying but otherwise acting normal, they probably just need a good cuddle from you. However, if you notice any of the following seek immediate medical attention:

  • Vomiting. 
  • Becomes lethargic. 
  • Clear fluid coming out of their ears or eyes.
  • Can't maintain their balance.
  • If a child has been injured in the stomach area and later complains of stomach pain. 
  • A baby under 2 months with a bruise on the head always needs to be checked. 

Concerning Appearance 

If your child is displaying more than one of the following symptoms, immediately call 911. Your child is likely to have a bacterial infection or head trauma.

  • Slurred or garbled speech.
  • Inability to stand up or walk straight.
  • Limpness.
  • Extreme lethargy.
  • Blue tinged skin


A sudden injury can cause bleeding to occur, and while the child may panic due to the sight of blood, rest assured they will be fine to mend their wound at home so long as none of the following apply:

  • Exposed flesh or bone.
  • Bleeding that lasts longer than 15 minutes.

Ingestion of Harmful Substances

If a child ingests anything toxic, such as, cleaners or medication, seek immediate medical attention. If your child takes a swig of dawn dish soap they will be okay at home, just make sure to give them plenty of water. 

The more you journey through parenthood the more you start to know the pattern of your child. Trust your inner voice and go with your gut; if you think your child is sick enough that they need medical attention, then take them in!
Don't beat yourself up for letting something happen to them... think back to when you were a kid, did you do stupid shit? Did you ingest weird things and make it out alive? Did you climb your 6 drawer dresser and stick things in electrical sockets? Our parents could not have been watching every single second and neither can you!
Don't beat yourself up if your ER trip turns out to be a jump on the gun, it's way better to be safe than sorry.
Lastly, don't beat yourself up for doing things "all wrong", there is no "right"! Kids get sick, they get hurt, what matters is how you react in the aftermath!

Pay attention to your little ones, they will show you everything you need to make the call that is right for you!