Every parent knows the agony of a severely ill or injured child, but sometimes it’s hard to know when you can wait and call the doctor in the morning or your child needs emergency attention. We put together this list to help guide your decisions.

It’s not always easy to decide whether your child can wait to see their pediatrician during office hours or they need emergency attention right away. That’s why we put together this guide to the signs, symptoms, and conditions indicating your child needs immediate medical attention.

If you ever have any doubt, call us at the Katy ER. We’re always open, and we only need to ask a few key questions to determine the type of medical attention your child needs.

Signs that common problems need emergency attention

Children often develop diarrhea, vomiting, and a fever, so here’s a quick rundown on when these common problems need emergency care.


Go to the ER if your child vomits after suffering a head trauma, has severe abdominal pain with the vomiting, you see blood in their vomit, or their vomit is green.


You can usually manage diarrhea at home by keeping your child hydrated, but don’t give them juice because that may worsen their diarrhea.

Go to the ER if your child has diarrhea with a high fever, refuses to drink, or has blood in their stool.


Children under the age of three months who have a temperature of 100.4°F or higher should always go to the ER.

For children older than three months, the type of help depends on their other symptoms. Take them to the ER if they have a fever of 104°F and symptoms such as unresponsiveness, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or seizures.

Call your doctor when your child has a fever plus a sore throat, earache, or runny nose, or when the fever persists for three days despite using a fever reducer.

The danger of respiratory distress

Any time your child struggles to breathe, a trip to the ER is justified. The difficulty parents often face is determining when normal congestion due to a cold or allergies is cause for concern.

When your child struggles to breathe, their nostrils flare, the spaces between their ribs look sunken, and their skin may turn pale or gray. These are all signs that your child needs emergency help.  

If your child has asthma, take them to the ER when:

  • Quick-relief medications don’t work
  • Wheezing or chest tightness worsens or is severe
  • Your child can’t talk due to difficulty breathing
  • Your child’s lips or fingernails turn blue or gray
  • You notice flaring nostrils or sunken areas between their ribs

Another red flag that your child may be headed for trouble is when their quick-relief medication doesn’t last at least four hours.

Severe allergic reaction

A severe allergic reaction demands rapid medical attention. These are the most common signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Itchy or swollen mouth and throat; difficulty swallowing
  • Skin redness or hives
  • Angioedema (swelling within the skin)
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations or chest tightness
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Allergies to foods, insect stings, latex, and medications are most likely to cause a severe reaction.

Signs of an emergency due to illness

Children who are sick enough to require immediate medical care develop a variety of signs and symptoms. All the following indicate you should take your child to the emergency room:

  • Seizures
  • Eye injury
  • Neck stiffness with a fever
  • Increasing or severe abdominal pain
  • Behavior that’s unusual, withdrawn, or less alert
  • Confusion, headache, loss of consciousness, or vomiting following a head injury
  • Loss of consciousness or no response when you talk with your child  

When multiple symptoms are present, such as a sudden fever, stiff neck, severe headache, confusion, and vomiting, it’s a sign your child may have meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is a serious condition that demands emergency medical attention.

Signs of an emergency due to an injury or accident

Injuries and accidents typically leave less room for doubt. It’s almost always clear when the problem is severe enough to demand emergency attention, but here’s a list of the serious problems we often see at Katy ER:

  • Choking
  • Serious head or neck injury
  • Broken bones sticking out through the skin
  • Severe burn or one that involves the face, hands, feet, chest, or groin
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop when you apply pressure for five minutes
  • Possible drug overdose
  • Possible poisoning

When your child suffers a serious accident or injury, call 9-1-1. They can provide medical care to restore breathing, stop bleeding, or administer life-saving medications while your child is on the way to the emergency room.

At Katy ER, you can just walk in. We’re open 24/7/365 for whenever your child needs quick medical care.