4 Signs That It’s Time to Take Your Child to the ER

Apr 12 • 2017

A visit to the emergency room is scary for anyone, but it’s especially stressful when you’re a parent bringing in a sick child. For many moms and dads, it can be hard to know the right time to make that call. We’ve outlined some of the most common signs that mean it’s time to take a trip to the emergency room.

High Fever

Fevers can be especially dangerous for children. While the number itself is important, there are also some symptoms that parents should be on the lookout for. A trip to the ER should be considered if your child is experiencing:

  • A temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and she is under 3 months old
  • A fever of 104 degrees or higher for children older than 3 months
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Unresolved crying
  • Seizures

Respiratory Issues
A stuffy nose from a cold or allergies might not warrant much worry, but if it’s clear that your child is struggling to get a breath in, it’s important to get help right away.

Call 911 or visit the emergency room if your child:

  • Is struggling to breathe
  • Is breathing rapidly
  • Stops breathing completely
  • Is choking
  • Must flare his nostrils to get oxygen
  • Is turning blue


A small rash on your child’s arms, hands, or feet is usually nothing to worry about. However, concern is warranted when the rash begins to grow or spread. If it covers her entire body – or a large portion of it – don’t panic right away. First, touch it and see if it turns white, then turns red again. If this happens, it’s likely hives, a virus, or some other kind of allergic reaction.

If the rash is red or purple, is spread around the body, and does not change color when pressure is applied, this could be something more serious like sepsis or meningitis. You’ll want to visit the emergency room now – especially if it is accompanied by a fever.

Vomiting or Diarrhea

Throwing up or diarrhea can be caused by a wide range of things – especially for children who may have picked up a bug at school or daycare. One of the biggest concerns is dehydration, which can occur quickly if your child can’t keep anything down.

Symptoms that warrant a trip to the emergency room include:

  • Six hours without urination
  • Cannot keep down a teaspoon of fluids
  • Crying without actual tears
  • Lack of energy
  • Blood in the vomit or diarrhea

If you’re concerned about your child’s symptoms, call your pediatrician for personalized recommendations on whether it’s time to take her to the emergency room.

Visit Baptist’s Pediatric Services page for more information, or find a physician by visiting our Find a Doctor page.