Womens Health
Children's Health Home
Womens Health Home
Childrens Health
Aetna Home
Contact Us
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

When To Call 911

There may be a time when you'll need to get immediate medical care for your child. In cases of emergency, that is, when you think that your child has an illness or injury that puts his life in danger or could cause permanent damage, you may want to call 911 for an ambulance instead of calling your child’s pediatrician. The following are signs and symptoms of potentially serious illnesses or injuries that probably need immediate medical attention, either from your child’s pediatrician or your local emergency medical services:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bleeding that doesn't stop after applying pressure for a few minutes
  • A cut or burn that is large or deep
  • Severe pain or pain that is worsening
  • A seizure (convulsion)
  • Discolored skin or lips (blue, purple or gray)
  • Any loss of consciousness (passing out, not responding)
  • Stiff neck or rash with fever
  • Extreme sleepiness (lethargy)

For children, emergencies are sometimes caused by serious illnesses but often follow sudden injuries such as these:

  • Falls
  • Collisions or crashes (for example, car or bicycle crashes)
  • Poisonings
  • Serious burns or smoke inhalation
  • Choking
  • "Near" drowning (rescued after being under water for some time)
  • Electrical shocks
  • Firearm incidents (gunshots) or other weapons

If you have any concerns about your child’s health, call his pediatrician for advice. Call 911 if you think your child is seriously ill or injured or if you think his life may be in danger.

Last updated December 3, 2009