Going to A&E (accident and emergency) for the first time with a child can be terrifying for everyone involved. If you’ve never been before, you might be wondering what it’s going to be like and how to keep yourself calm as well as your kids. For me, knowing what’s going to happen in advance and knowing where to go is a big help as I tend to get a lot of anxiety about the little things.
- Know what numbers to call (111 non emergency, 999 emergency, your local GP office to make an appointment, and your health visitor for advice).
- Know where your local hospital is.
- Familiarise yourself with the parking situation for the emergency room.
- If you’re on holiday or traveling further afield, looking up the hospital location in advance can give you peace of mind.
- Take a first aid course so you’re confident about basic first aid care.
- Have a bag ready to leave the house in any situation with basics such as a change of clothes, nappies and food.
- Have your numbers printed out and available somewhere, such as stuck to the fridge, especially if there is ever a relative or babysitter caring for your child.
Get a FREE printable PDF of the above image to print out and fill in your numbers by clicking here – Health Numbers !
Baby’s First Visit to the Emergency Room
When William was 5 months old his grandmother slipped whilst picking him up out of the bath. He went under and swallowed quite a bit of water and was coughing for quite a while, but could still breathe. She called 111 which is the NHS non emergency number as he was still coughing but breathing fine in between, so didn’t seem to be in immediate danger.
If it is an emergency, call 999 immediately. If there is nothing immediately life threatening but you’re looking for advice on the situation, call 111 – it’s still a 24 hour helpline. No need to wait for the GP office to open! If you need general advice that is not time sensitive, your health visitor should have provided you a number to call.
After taking all the details, the NHS helpline said that due to concerns regarding secondary drowning and water on the lungs it would be best to get him checked out by a doctor. As it was 7pm at night and no clinics were still open in the area, she was told to take him to A&E. My husband and I were eating dinner when we got her phone call. Being told you need to head to A&E is a bit terrifying and of course, I immediately went into panic mode. I felt quite out of control because I hadn’t been there when it happened and I didn’t really know the situation, she of course, felt very guilty that it had happened at all. But accidents do happen and we just have to address them as best we can. The car journey to meet her there was very scary for me as I was imagining the worst, but when we got there little William seemed absolutely fine to me. Nonetheless, we’d been told to check it out, so we duly trooped in.
A&E can seem a bit like a war zone, especially my local, which is an extremely large hospital in a city centre (Cardiff). There were at least 50 people filling up every seat around in various stages of injury. There was blood and bandages, coughing and groaning. Some people were clearly drunk, security were walking out with another, and it was all a bit scary. Luckily, children don’t get seen in the same place as adults!
Check in at Reception
First of all we had to check in, which is a simple matter of providing your name, date of birth and confirming your address. You’ll be asked to give a brief description of the problem and then be told to take a seat. In the case of children, the seat will be in the children’s department.
2. Head to the Children’s Department.
In Cardiff this was a short walk away, through a security door that required a nurse to buzz you in – so no chance of your kids wandering off or of any drunks stumbling in. Inside is a much more relaxed atmosphere, with brightly painted walls, a pile of toys to play with and toilets with changing facilities available in the same room.
3. Be assessed.
You’ll first be called in for an assessment with the nurses. Here they took down more details about what had happened and did a basic check, including taking William’s temperature, pulse rate, oxygen levels and listening to his chest. This information is then passed on to the doctors, and you’ll be placed in a priority queue.
4. See the doctor and undergo any necessary treatment.
Depending on how busy it is and how urgent your situation is, you might be in for a wait. If you have time it’s definitely worth grabbing something warm to wear, a drink and making sure your kids have everything they need such as nappies and food before you leave. Check with the nurse at assessment if it’s okay for your kids to eat and drink, as they might want you to hold off on that especially if you’re in a situation where surgery might be required. Luckily William wasn’t due a feed for some time, so I didn’t have to deal with a hungry baby!
We waited for 90 minutes as we were a non urgent case before getting a full examination by the doctor. They stripped him off and gave him a good evaluation, looking for bruises and feeling for any broken bones. They listened to his chest for quite a while and took his temperature again before declaring they had no concerns. He might have needed a chest x-ray if they had heard anything odd, but the conclusion was there was no obvious water on his lungs and he was not in any danger. We did get a list of things to look out for and an instruction to bring him back in immediately if he displayed any of the symptoms. If that had happened, they’d already have all his details from earlier on file as a reference.
Whilst we were there other families were coming in and out with various ailments – cuts and bruises, an entire family who had been in a car crash but was luckily not badly injured, a young boy who had broken his ankle, a baby who had been vomiting and had a fever and plenty more. They worked very hard to see everyone as quickly as possible and to keep the kids in a quiet and engaging environment whilst they waited. If you have time to grab a few toys this may help younger children adjust, but there were quite an array of things there to play with and look at. Older children might benefit from a bit of screen time to relax and there were plugs, so if you’ve got time to grab your charger that will help! The hospital even had free wifi, so YouTube was on the cards.
5. Go home safe and sound!
If you find yourself needing to go to A&E, you’re in the very best of hands but being prepared can help calm any anxiety you might have. Check in at the main reception, but you will be sent to the children’s department where your kids will be well looked after. You’ll be with them every step of the way and hopefully back home safe and sound with a treatment plan within a few hours.
After the Visit
After the visit when everything is okay, take a step back and evaluate the situation and what happened. Accidents do happen every day, but if there is a way we can make something safer for our kids then it’s worth thinking about. In this case, we bought a new bath seat for William and a stool for my mum to sit on whilst bathing him, to try and avoid the situation happening again. She felt guilty for quite a while afterwards and was a little nervous with him as she felt she’d let him down – but it could have happened to anyone. Remember to give everyone involved a big hug and relax with a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate after the little one has fallen asleep.
I felt a bit silly in the end as absolutely nothing was wrong and I felt like we’d wasted their time a bit, but we followed the medical guidelines and I’m sure they’re glad when it turns out to be a false alarm! Don’t hesitate to call 111 if you’re worried about any health situation and let the medical professionals make the decision about whether you need to go in or not or if it can wait to see the G.P. the next day. As the old saying goes, “better to be safe than sorry”.