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Pediatric Emergency Care

Life with young children is always unpredictable. That’s why Banner Children’s is nearby to help you manage any unforeseen emergency medical needs your family may face.

When Should I Take My Child to the Emergency Room for an Injury or Accident?

Sometimes it’s obvious that your child is having a medical emergency, but other times it’s not so clear. If your child is experiencing any of the following, you should bring him or her to the emergency department:

  • Abdominal pain (especially the right lower abdomen)
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Broken bones
  • Chest pain
  • Concussion
  • Cuts (especially on the face)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dog bites (or other animal bites)
  • Seizure
  • Serious head trauma or injury
  • Severe drowsiness, difficulty waking up or confusion
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck with fever and headache
  • Suspected poisoning or drug overdose
  • Testicular pain or swelling
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Vomiting that will not stop

Our pediatric-prepared emergency rooms (ERs) are set up specifically for the needs of children. Our doctors, nurses and support staff in our emergency rooms are specially trained in pediatric emergency medicine and can provide the care your child needs when he or she needs it most.

The Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AzAAP) has certified 10 Banner Children’s locations through its Pediatric-Prepared Emergency Center program, a voluntary program recognizing hospitals that have demonstrated their ability and expertise to stabilize and/or manage pediatric medical emergencies.

Our pediatric-prepared ERs include:

Children’s Emergency Care Guide

Don’t wait for an emergency to figure out what to do in the event your child gets injured. Prepare yourself ahead of time with some tips from our emergency care experts on how to care for common injuries and what you can do to help your child on the way to the emergency room.

Allergic reaction

You can give your child children’s antihistamine (Benadryl, etc.) as your child’s pediatrician recommends.

When Is Emergency Care Needed for an Allergic Reaction?

Call 911 right away if your child’s lips or tongue are swelling or if your child has trouble breathing.

Asthma attack

If your child’s normal asthma-management routine isn’t working, bring your child to the emergency room.

What Can I Do at Home or on Our Way to the Emergency Room?

You can give your child an albuterol breathing treatment at home before you leave. Be sure to bring your child’s rescue inhaler on the way to the hospital and use it if your child has any trouble on the trip.

Broken Bone

Bring your child to the emergency room for any broken bone so a doctor can examine it. If you see the bone is bent, call 911 so the operator can help you splint the bone first.

How Should I Care for a Broken Bone on the Way to the ER?

On the way to the emergency room or while you wait for an ambulance, you should:

  • Use a sling or a large book, stick or board as a temporary splint (wrapping the area isn’t necessary)
  • Keep the area with the broken bone above your child’s heart
  • Use ice to relieve pain and cut down on swelling
  • Give your child children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain


For normal, household burns, a trip to the emergency room usually isn’t necessary. Bring your child to the emergency room or call 911 immediately if the burn covers a large part of your child’s body or if the burn is on your child’s hand, foot, face, eyes or groin.

If your child has any sort of electrical burn, call 911 or go to the ER so a doctor can take a look.

What Can I Do for Severe Burns at Home or on the Way to the ER?

For simple heat or thermal burns, treat at home with these steps:

  • Run cool water over the burned area or use a cold compress
  • Do not apply butter, steak, mustard or other “home remedies” to the burned area
  • Do not apply any ointments, oils or sprays to the burned area
  • If any clothing is stuck to the burned area, don’t try to remove it. Instead, cut the clothing around the burn site, leaving the area over the burn intact and go to the emergency room right away
  • If a blister forms at the burn site, don’t break it

If your child has an electrical burn, follow these steps:

  • Unplug the electrical device that caused your child’s burn or turn off the power to the device
  • If your child is still touching the device or is in contact with the electrical current (in water with the device, etc.), don’t touch your child until you turn off the power to the device
  • Make sure your child is still breathing. If he or she isn’t breathing, call 911 right away and begin CPR
  • Cover the burned area with a sterile bandage or a clean sheet
  • Don’t let your child eat or drink anything
  • Move your child to his or her back unless he or she has a neck or back injury. In that case, don’t move your child until emergency medical personnel get to you
  • Keep your child warm with blankets or extra clothes, but don’t use a heat source (a portable heater, an electric blanket, etc.)


Fortunately, most household or playground cuts don’t require a trip to the emergency room. If your child’s cut won’t stop bleeding, if the cut is deep enough to show multiple layers of tissue or if the wound is gaping, don’t wait. Go for emergency treatment. Any cuts where the skin and the lip meet (the vermillion border) may also require emergency medical attention.

How Can I Care for Cuts at Home?

You can treat most normal cuts at home with gentle pressure to the area and a light wrap or bandage. Rinse the cut under running water to clean the wound before placing the bandage. Do not use hydrogen peroxide on a cut.

Head Injury/Concussion

If your child suffers any sort of head trauma, go directly to an emergency room. If your child isn’t behaving normally as a result of a head injury, call 911 right away. A few symptoms to look for:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe headache that won’t go away
  • Trouble with short-term memory
  • Trouble remembering what caused the injury
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Other unusual behaviors

How Can I Care for Head Injuries at Home?

If your child is tired but otherwise behaving normally, it’s OK for him or her to fall asleep after a head injury. Don’t let your child fall asleep if he or she isn’t behaving normally after a head injury. You can give your child children’s acetaminophen, but don’t use children’s ibuprofen or aspirin.

Insect/Spider Bite or Sting (Non-Scorpion)

You can safely treat most insect bites and stings at home. A visit to the emergency room is usually unnecessary. If your child has trouble breathing, or if the bite/sting site swells, go to the emergency room. If you think your child has been bitten by a black, red or brown widow spider or a brown recluse spider, call 911 right away.

If your child has been bitten or stung by an unknown insect or spider and has any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction, go to the emergency room:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the eyes, lips or inside of the throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness or confusion

How Can I Care for Insect/Spider Bites or Stings at Home?

For most routine insect or spider bites/stings, you can use an ice pack to minimize pain or swelling. You can also give your child children’s antihistamine (Benadryl, etc.) together with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Cool compresses are also helpful at home.


If your child eats or drinks anything poisonous – household chemicals, pest poison, etc. – call your area poison control hotline or the national Poison Helpline at (800) 222-1222 immediately for help. Try to figure out what your child ate or drank so the poison control expert can give you the best instructions possible.

If your child has any of the following symptoms after eating or drinking something poisonous, call 911 right away:

  • Burns or blisters on the lips or mouth
  • Irritability or jumpiness
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain without a fever
  • Seizures or unconsciousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Sore throat
  • Strange breath odor
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unusual drooling
  • Unusual stains on clothing

How Can I Care for Poisoning on the Way to the Emergency Room?

Bring the container of whatever poisonous material your child ate or drank with you to the emergency room. Try to identify when your child ate or drank the poison and how much.

Don’t trust instructions on the poison’s packaging since these could be outdated. Also, don’t make your child vomit.

Scorpion Sting

If you think your child has been stung by a scorpion, call the national Poison Helpline at (800) 222-1222. In children younger than age 10, pain/numbness and/or tingling can occur. They are, however, more likely to develop severe symptoms from a scorpion sting. An infant or child stung by a scorpion may experience severe symptoms such as:

  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Rapid, jittery eye movements
  • Increased salivation
  • Severe agitation

How Can I Care for Scorpion Stings on the Way to the Emergency Room?

While you’re on the way to the ER or waiting for treatment, give your child children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain. Otherwise, do not let your child eat or drink until evaluated by the ER.

Water Related Accident (Near-Drowning)

If your child has a water accident, call 911 right away if he or she requires CPR or has trouble breathing afterward. You should also call 911 if your child has a persistent cough after the event.

How Can I Care for Water Accidents at Home?

After any water related accident, put your child in dry clothing and keep him or her out of the water until you’re sure he or she doesn’t need medical help.

When your child is in or near the water:

  • Always supervise your children closely in or near swimming pools, wading pools and bodies of water
  • Sign up for swimming lessons for your child and family
  • Fence off home swimming pools to prevent unsupervised access
  • Keep electrical devices away from pools to help prevent electric shocks
  • Keep lids down on toilets and/or use childproof toilet locks for very small children
  • Never leave a young child alone in a bathtub for even a minute