How to Keep Your Kids Out of the Emergency Department

3 common problems and how to avoid them
How to Keep Your Kids Out of the Emergency Department

There are various reasons children end up in the emergency room, says Purva Grover, MD, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Children’s Pediatric Emergency Departments. She offers insights about three of the most common maladies that tend to affect kids during the holidays. She also offers tips to avoid them.

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1. Viral infections

Although school is out, children are still often around large groups of people – family and friends – during this time of year. Children are at greater risk at big family functions where infections spread quickly, Dr. Grover says.

Doctors most often see these issues:

During the holiday season and through January, up to 70 percent of pediatric patients in emergency departments have a viral lung disease, she says. It’s possible for between 20 and 30 percent more to have gastroenteritis.

Prevention tip: Be sure children wash their hands regularly. Proper hand-washing hygiene is the best defense against these infections.

RELATED: 5 Simple Tips to Prevent Norovirus This Winter

2. Injuries

Sports activities are popular at many holiday gatherings. And any time children play sports, they may get hurt.

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More time for sports during holiday vacations means that young people are more likely to end up in the hospital mainly with injuries from football, skiing or sledding, Dr. Grover says.

Sometimes, injuries happen, regardless of taking precautions. But sometimes, a few common sense tips can prevent problems.

When it comes to sledding, here are a few additional tips:

  • Keep kids a safe distance from motor vehicles, as some sledding hills are close to highways and roads.
  • Insist that children sled in proper “form.” Kids can prevent injuries by sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first.
  • Be sure the sledding hill is not too steep, with a slope of less than 30 degrees, and that it ends with a flat runoff.

Prevention tip: Reinforce the importance of safety with children. Also, be sure they take proper precautions appropriate for the sport or activity they are involved in.

RELATED: Parents: Know These Winter Safety Tips

3. Fainting

In some cases, children aren’t sick or injured – they’re simply hungry and dehydrated.

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Emergency departments see a spike in pediatric patients on heavy shopping days when young people are up early and spend much of the day walking, standing and skipping meals. Their blood sugar drops, and they’re more likely to faint, Dr. Grover says.

Prevention tip: Bring extra water and snacks with you on outings or shopping with children. Also, pay attention so that too much time does not go by between meals.

Simple mindfulness can help you avoid many of these holiday hazards. But if “Emergency Department” slips onto your holiday travel list, doctors and nurses are there to help.

RELATED: What Exactly Is a Fainting Spell–and When Should You Worry?

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