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Going to the emergency room during COVID-19: Good idea, or not?
April 23, 2020
Going to the emergency room during COVID-19: Good idea, or not?

    Is it safe to go to the emergency room during COVID-19?

    We know it’s a scary time. Our emergency team is here for you 24/7 while doing everything possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    Parents everywhere are telling their kids in unison, “Be careful – we can’t go to the emergency room right now!” In truth, it is a good time to avoid unnecessary trips to the ER. But, what constitutes an unnecessary trip and when is it important to get that illness or injury checked out? Dr. Frank Petruzella, dad of two and chief of pediatric emergency medicine, helps us decipher.

    When to come to the emergency department during this pandemic

    emergency room during COVID

    Even during a pandemic, life doesn’t stop. If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to seek emergency medical care:

    • High fever
      • >100.3°F in infants younger than 3 months
      • >100.3°F for more than three days in all other children
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Severe asthma attack
    • Severe stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea
    • Concussion
    • Broken bone
    • Severe dehydration
      • No tears when crying
      • No urine output for 6+ hours
      • Confusion, dizziness or lightheadedness
      • Low energy
      • Fast breathing or heart rate
      • Sunken eyes
      • Cold or dry skin
    • Severe cut/wound
      • Deep, red, swollen or painful wound
      • Wound that is warm to the touch
      • Uncontrollable bleeding
      • Severe wound accompanied by a fever

    When to stay home

    Generally, if your child is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms – slight fever, runny nose, gentle cough, mild sore throat – that are not causing difficulty with breathing or eating, we recommend trying at-home remedies before coming to the emergency room for treatment. Care at home may include rest, fluids, over-the-counter medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and even some chicken soup.

    With respiratory illnesses, it’s important to pay attention to the length and severity of the symptoms. If a fever is lasting three or more days, or if symptoms are more severe, such as difficulty breathing, it’s a good idea to have your child see a medical provider.

    ER visitation guidelines

    If you do bring your child to the emergency room, please keep in mind that visitation guidelines have changed associated with COVID-19. In order to prevent the spread and protect our patients, families and team members, patients in the ER may be accompanied by two parents or guardians.

    We understand that bringing your child to the emergency room can be stressful and our team is prepared to support you.

    How to prepare for your ER visit

    If you feel your child’s symptoms are urgent, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately.

    If you do not believe your child’s situation is urgent and it is during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.), we recommend calling your pediatrician before going to the ER. They will ask questions about the symptoms and may even be able to see your child via telehealth from the comfort of your own home.

    We are encouraging patients and visitors to wear cloth masks in all of our hospitals and clinics. If you have cloth masks at home, please bring one for you and for your child. If you do not have access to cloth masks, don’t worry! We can provide you with a mask when you arrive.

    How CHoR is keeping kids, families and team members safe in the ER during COVID-19

    In addition to updating visitation policies, we’re taking several measures to keep everyone safe. These include:

    • Screening patients and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms
    • Creating zones and flow plans to care for patients who screen positive for COVID-19 symptoms in separate areas from others
    • Practicing strict hand hygiene
    • Detailing personal protective equipment guidelines to protect everyone today and prepare for the days ahead
    • Practicing social distancing when possible in the hospital environment

    Learn about the other ways we’re safely caring for all patients during this time.

    Dr. Petruzella provides updates to patients in this video:

    Dr. Petruzella also recently joined medical experts from across the nation to answer parents’ questions about the coronavirus in Fatherly.

    For the latest updates and information about coronavirus, click here.

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