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What You Need to Know in an Emergency
Could you remember important information about your child's health in an emergency?
Because that can be difficult, doctors suggest that parents keep a record of their kids' important health facts handy. This can help a medical team make a better, quicker diagnosis when time really counts.
Making a complete written or computer-based medical history for your kids is a good idea. Be sure their medical records have this information:
This is especially crucial if a child is allergic to any medications — penicillin, for example — or other antibiotics. Allergies to food, dye, or contrast material (dye or other substances used in tests like CAT scans) can come into play, too, so make note of anything your child has had a reaction to. Kids who've previously been hospitalized may have developed latex allergies.
This information can sometimes help emergency personnel find a cause for problems such as breathing difficulties and hives.
Your handy medical record should list any medications, including dosages, that your kids currently take. Some medications react badly when taken together, so the paramedics and doctors need this information before they give a child anything. You'll need to know when a child took the medication last and how much was taken.
It is also extremely important for emergency personnel to be told of any health problems or illnesses your child has had. For example, does your child have diabetes, a bleeding disorder, or asthma? These pre-existing conditions can have a huge impact on which tests and treatments are administered in an emergency.
Consider having any child who has one of these chronic health problems or a known allergy wear an identifying tag on a necklace or bracelet. This kind of rapid notification can help doctors who are providing emergency care, especially if your child suddenly becomes ill at childcare, school, or a friend's house.
Don't forget to include the dates and surgeries a child has had — this can be important to the course of treatment in an emergency.
Keeping a clear and up-to-date record of your kids' immunization history can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing a problem in an emergency. If the doctor suspects that a child has an infection, for example, it may save much time to know that the child has had a particular immunization.
The staff at your doctor's office can help you compile information on your kids' immunization status.
There may not be time to weigh a child in an emergency. Having a recent weight handy can help doctors calculate dosages of any medication that may be needed.
Compiling a list of the family medical history is helpful information to also have on hand. Doctors usually ask if anyone else in the family has any medical problems because this can be an important piece of information when diagnosing and dealing with a current illness.
You might not be able to recall all this information in an emergency, so add it to your kids' medical records.
Information for Caregivers
If your child spends time in a childcare center or with a babysitter, you'll want to add other information to the medical record.
Besides instructions on how to reach you quickly, leave the name and phone number of your child's doctor. This will help the caretaker contact the office where your child's full medical history is on file — in case you can't be reached.
And if you'll be away from your kids for a longer time, such as for a vacation or business trip, and they stay with a sitter or family member other than your spouse, you'll want to leave a release allowing that person to authorize medical care.
In a life-threatening emergency a medical release won't be necessary. Medical personnel are authorized to do what they must to save the life of someone involved in an accident or other emergency.
It doesn't take long to compile a written or computer-based medical history for your kids. And doing so could mean saving critical minutes — when they count most!
Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: November 2011
- Choosing and Instructing a Babysitter
- Emergency Contact Sheet
- First Aid & Safety Center
- Getting Help: Know the Numbers
- Going to the Emergency Room
- Is it a Medical Emergency?
- Electronic Health Records
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Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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