It was one of those moments that you feel, rather than see, in excruciating, punishing slow motion: Four-month-old Tyler Glowacz fell from his bouncer, which was on the kitchen table, and landed on the ceramic floor. "I was only a couple of feet away, but his bouncer was on the table and he wasn't strapped in. Stupid mistake -- I know," admits his mom, LuAnn, of Austin, TX. She was relieved that Tyler began crying -- silence would have been a more ominous sign -- but she knew she had to get her son to an emergency room. When they arrived, the ER nurse at the local hospital thought Tyler looked fine, but Glowacz insisted on a head scan anyway. "It turned out that the baby had two skull fractures and had to be transferred to the Children's Hospital by ambulance immediately," she says. A night and a day and many tests later, Tyler was sent home. Now 14 months old, he's perfectly fine and has no memory of his table dive. But his mom will never forget it. "That was the longest night of my life," she says.
When your kid is screaming, blood is flowing, and emotions are bubbling over, it can be hard to tell if a situation is a true emergency, something that can be treated in your doctor's office, or an issue you can handle at home once things calm down. How do you know? Let your pediatrician help you decide. "It is always, always better to call the pediatrician before going to the ER for anything but life-threatening emergencies," injuries or conditions that, if they didn't get medical attention, could result in death, says Lara Zibners, M.D., a pediatric ER doctor and author of If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be OK: How to Know if Your Child's Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency. (For more advice on when to call 911, read 9 Pediatric Emergency Essentials.)
Otherwise, your child's doctor will deal with the issue over the phone, have you come into the office, or call the ER ahead of time to alert them that your child is on the way. If you need to go to the hospital, your child's doctor can impart key information to ER personnel, and his call can speed up your wait time once you arrive, notes Dr. Zibners. To make the decision easier, we spoke to pediatric ER doctors about ten common kid accidents and how to handle them.