Medical Emergencies

Family members should be ready for an emergency at all times, whether it is at home or out of the home. Family members should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and know how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED), as well as familiarize themselves with the nearest hospital that can handle a cardiac emergency.

Emergency Preparedness

It is best to work with your cardiologist and local physician/pediatrician to agree on an emergency plan of action ahead of time, especially if an emergency occurs after office hours. It is also advisable to keep a list of your child's current medications and doctor numbers by the phone and with you at all times.

In 1999, the Committee on Pediatric Emergency Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics published Emergency Preparedness for Children With Special Health Care Needs, which include the following recommendations:

  • Create a short summary of important information for the emergency management of your child.

  • Keep this summary as updated as possible.

  • Know how to use this summary and be encouraged to take it to all health care appointments.

  • Consider a medical ID for quicker identification of your child’s special medical needs.

  • Use a universally accepted, standardized form for the summary.

  • Have the summary accessible at any time (day or night).

  • Copies should be available at home, school, during transportation, in the emergency department, in the medical records of treating physicians and part of a child's individual health plan.

Warning Signs

Preparing for an emergency also means being able to identify the signs of infection, cardiac arrest, heart failure or serious drug reactions. Symptoms in children are usually harder to detect, and children may have a harder time communicating how they feel. If your child exhibits any of the below signs or symptoms, you should call 911 immediately.

  • Bluish tint to the skin or very pale complexion

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Sluggishness or lack of responsiveness (appears like a "rag doll")

  • Trembling or seizures

  • High fever or very cold extremities

  • Heavy sweating

  • Persistent chest pain, pressure or discomfort that is unrelieved by rest or change of position

  • Feeling faint or dizzy

  • Abnormally fast or weak pulse

  • Unexpected neurological or behavioral problems (related to speech, vision, hearing and loss of balance/coordination)

Medical Identification

If your child is going to school and you are concerned about a medical emergency occurring when you are not with him/her, some form of medical identification could be considered. A medical identification informs others of your child’s diagnosis and ensures appropriate and timely medical care from first responders and medical personnel. The medical ID would include vital information such as your child’s medical condition, medications and allergies, which could help to prevent possible misdiagnosis and medical errors.

Medical identification retailers offer different styles and metal finishes to suit the lifestyle of children, teens and young adults. Formats vary from bracelets, pendants, necklaces and sports bands to watches, charms and traditional "dog tags." MedicAlert and American Medical ID are often used but there are several other companies that offer more stylish medical identification for the more image-conscious child or teen. These retailers offer medical identification pieces with beads such as pearls, gemstones, and Swarovski crystal as well as higher-end materials such as 14K gold and sterling silver. Bracelets or wristbands can come in the traditional metal chains or with interchangeable rubber, beaded, leather or polyester "sports" bands.

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