“Since When Does a Simple Fall = E.R. Visit?”

Hi eehzzzbnyt
Readers — Just a little note from one of you:
Dear Free-Range Kids: My two-year old daughter face-planted while running on a sidewalk yesterday late afternoon. Now she’s got a scrape on her forehead and a “Groucho Marx”-looking mustache/skinned upper lip. We checked that her teeth and nose were fine, and she stopped crying before we got home. But, I cannot tell you how many moms (of all people!?) have stopped me to ask if I took her to the emergency room. When I say no, they look at me like I’m crazy.
Look: She fell while running. It’s no worse than having a skinned knee, just in a bit more obvious place. We put ice and Neosporin on it, and she was back to herself by dinner time. Since when do we rush off to the ER for every scrape, bruise, and cut? It’s no wonder that medical insurance is skyrocketing if we rush off frantically to the hospital every time a child falls down. And, why react with a gasp and “Oh my gosh!!” to seeing a child with a scrape and a scab on her face? It’s teaching her that something terrible happened to her, when it was really just a fall.
Seems to me we are instilling a culture of fear by reacting with such grandiosity to such a normal accident. Beyond that, I can’t tell you how many moms have told me that “because she’s a girl, you really should put [insert numerous product names] on it to minimize the scarring.” I just don’t think that I am (literally) scarring my child by keeping my reaction to a sane minimum. – Jen
Dear Jen: I’ve wondered myself why I’m at the pediatrician’s office so much more than my mom was with me. I  think it’s all part of  “Worst-First” thinking. We are encouraged to consider how every incident or sniffle COULD turn into the worst possible thing, and how terrible would we feel if we hadn’t addressed it with all guns blazing.  “Wait and see” has become “Wait and see how you feel when your child doesn’t recover and it’s all your fault!”
No wonder it’s so hard to resist the impulse to  make a big fuss, or at the very least, spend a lot of time and money. – L.

121 Responses to “Since When Does a Simple Fall = E.R. Visit?”

  1. Linda June 1, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    OK, there’s all this free-range-y stuff in this post, but wait a minute…if she were a *boy*, it would be OK for her to have facial scars?

    If you think it’s a good idea to avoid facial scars, and I’ll grant that it probably is, what has this got to do with gender?

  2. Heather G June 1, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    My brother-in-law spent most of his childhood in a body cast or wheelchair. My mother-in-law has a very good reason to freak out if one of the kids falls and hurts themselves as when she was raising one of her sons a simple fall often did mean a broken bone. Still, she has learned that while that was true for my BIL, it is not true for my kids and they *will* push their limits and they *will* fall and they *will* get all kinds of bumps, bruises and scrapes and that it *isn’t* the end of the world. Knowing what she went through with my BIL I am impressed by her ability and willingness to set aside her worst-first thoughts and see my kids minor injuries as they really are. It might help that she has taught kindergarten for 30 years and sees booboos all the time, still I know the thought is there and she makes a conscious effort to set it aside. For that she is awesome.

  3. robynheud June 1, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    It makes me miss the sanity of my parents. When I was seven I manage to stab a hole between my littlest toes on my right foot with a pair of scissors. My parents didn’t take me to the hospital, they just checked to make sure I hadn’t hit anything important, cleaned it up and wrapped the toes together. I even remember feeling disappointed when my dad said it probably wouldn’t scar because of where it was.

    With our toddler, now 2 1/2, when he first started walking, he took a face plant on the bookcase and bit through his lip. There were two perfect lines from his front teeth and instead of going to the ER, we called a friend’s dad who’s an ER nurse, who informed us that as long as it was a clean cut and there was no excessive bleeding we could just clean it up and put some neosporin on it, which is what we were planning on doing anyway. We’ve never taken him to the ER for anything, altho we almost did urgent care when he hurt his wrist and was crying for an hour. On the way there, he started laughing and clapping his hands. No lasting damage, and no extra bills.

    It would be nice if you could call the ER itself and let them know what the issue was and instead of them saying “we can’t make a determination until we see it” and then making you wait for eight hours while people with actual emergencies get seen, could give you some reassuring, common sense advice with things to look for that could warrant the trip. But everytime I’ve called, their default response is to come in, and the way they tend to say it makes you feel like if you don’t bring your kid in, they’re going to suffer irreparable harm.

  4. Lafe June 1, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    I have the same unreal feeling when parents we know run to the ER every time their kid has a fever. We’ve never done that with any of our three kids. When we ask “Did you try Tylenol, ibuprofen, or wiping them down with a warm washcloth first?” they look at us like we are suggesting brain surgery with a rusty garden tool.

    The media, or the “concerned citizen busybodies” or the medical establishment, or SOMEBODY has obviously done a great job convincing masses of parents that they aren’t qualified to diagnose a scrape, apply a band-aid, or administer a fever-reducer. It’s sad. Scary-sad.

  5. opsomath June 1, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    The identical thing happened with my 2.5 y/o the other day. Running at a rate of one toddler per second down the sidewalk, trip, faceplant into the concrete. Cut lip led to bleeding everywhere. Took him home, used ice in a paper towel to close it (kind of like a cut boxer) and he immediately started complaining because he wanted to go back and run on the sidewalk some more.

    ER, my smelly left foot.

  6. Dani June 1, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    One of the things I’ve learned is for the most part kids don’t break. They might get hurt, scratched, bruised, etc. but for the most part they stay intact. I work in a hospital, and I cannot tell you how many times I see something and wonder “Why are you here??” People rush in for the most ridiculous things. (Like your daughter’s scrape)
    I do give some people a little room for some stuff. I describe myself as a terrible underreactor. I have been to the ER four times in four years. Each time was completely necessary and I am proud of that. I also worry myself constantly over whether I should bring them in either way.

  7. Annalyn June 1, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    Oh goodness, I don’t think i ever went to the ER growing up. Not once! I had tons of bad cuts and scrapes (some that could have used a stitch or two but certainly didn’t NEED it) and I survived! I even split my lip really bad and didn’t go. It healed and the scar is not even noticeable. I had to point it out to my own husband. He still can’t see it. 🙂 Anyways, I do have scars on my body but nobody cares. There’s nothing disfiguring. It’s proof that I lived my life. My mom DID take my sister to the ER when she split her forehead open, and she DID take my other sister to the ER when she broke her foot and when a dog bit her nose. But those were really emergencies. I’ve taken my own son one time ( he is three) when he broke his collar bone. It thought his shoulder was dislocated, but it turned out his poor little collar bone was broken instead. He fell out of bed at 3 in the morning. He’s never been badly injured playing or doing any of the numerous dangerous things that 3 year old boys do. Instead, he was injured in a completely random freak accident. You just can’t prevent every bad thing from happening. And you shouldn’t! Kids should learn that sometimes bad things happen whether you are good or bad, or whether you think you’re safe or not. Then you just get back up and keep on going! Bad things aren’t the end of the world. In fact, if you change your perspective, some things really aren’t bad at all!

  8. Jane June 1, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    When my son was about 18 months he fell headfirst down a couple of concrete steps, maybe a foot and a half total. He had a pretty good knot on his forehead. I called our doctor, just to calm my own paranoia, and they actually *told* me to take him to the ER. Turns out that the signs of concussion aren’t always obvious in children under age 2 (they may not have dilated eyes and vomiting like an older kid would) and if the knot on his head had been just a little bigger they would have given him a CAT scan to check for brain injury.

    I thought I was crazy to worry about such a little fall. But apparently in a toddler it can actually be serious.

  9. RyanE June 1, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    We didn’t take our daughter to the ER when she broke her leg close to her ankle. Didn’t know if it was a sprain.

    Called a doctor friend, he said he’d check it on Monday to make sure it wasn’t broken.

    Turns out it was, he set it, no problems waiting a day to see.

    Didn’t feel like the best Dad in the world, but she survived and is fine.

    If I took my youngest son to the ER whenever he got a scrape, we’d have a frequent-visit card for the place, with last night as the last visit.


  10. Kevin June 1, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    I’m a little torn on this issue.

    I was at the doctor constantly as a child due to regular ear infections and even with proper treatment had some hearing loss a result of it all. As an adult with small children I tend to error on the side of getting them checked out if they appear sick even if I think it’s just a cold or flu that should go away on its own. I’ve also learned from my awesome pediatrician that things I thought were a cold or the flu (which you can tough out with rest and fluids) may actually be something else like strep that can cause kidney failure or other serious lifelong problems if left untreated. It’s not so much worst first thinking as recognizing the limits of my medical diagnostic abilities and that a few common symptoms can be caused by many different things, some no big deal, and some serious if left untreated.

    When it comes to injury I teach our kids to get up and say “Darn It!” and move on for most things. However, there is a difference between a skinned knee and a head injury and the fact is that doctor’s understanding on concussions has changed radically since I was a kid a few decades ago. Things that were disregarded before are now known to cause brain damage (the NFL is facing lawsuits due to this). So, while I’m all for being tough and shaking it off, I don’t think you should belittle a parent for taking a knock to the head more seriously than a hit to the knee or other injury. There can be a real difference and a parent who expresses concern for your kid when seeing evidence of a head injury shouldn’t really be put down for it.

    Finally, I leave you with a story about me overreacting and freaking out a comic relief. My son fell out of a shopping cart and landed on his head on a concrete floor. My wife freaked out and drove him to the doctor and they said as long as he’s not vomiting or dizzy not to worry. He seemed fine so we went home. Then he started vomiting so we rushed to the ER. They checked him out and instead of the concussion and serious brain injury we were panicking about he had just picked the worst possible moment to also get a mild stomach flu. So sometimes even a fall on your head is no big deal. I try to remember that when my instinct is to panic and rush to a doctor.

  11. Uly June 1, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    And meanwhile, wait times at the ER are a measure of *hours*, in no small part because people bring their kids there for things that aren’t emergencies or even urgent.

  12. SusanOR June 1, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    One of our local peds hospital has a FREE app for iPhone (not sure about Android) called MD4Kids. The app covers many symptoms, gives you When to go to ER, When to call MD after hours, When to wait until regular office hours, when to self-treat at home (and then gives you home care instructions). I use this app frequently and most of the time, am pleased to see that kiddo usually needs home care. I remember checking it when kiddo got quite a head knock — it gave me clear info so I knew what to look for; when none of those symptoms appeared, I knew she was good to go (like original poster). And you can program it to call YOUR ped & YOUR preferred hospital when those are indicated.

    As an aside, this is above & beyond the fact that for 2+ years, my kiddo was a frequent flyer at the peds ER for a recurrent medical issue. After the first two admissions, our pediatrician told us in no uncertain terms that we were to call an ambulance, not transport her ourselves. She’s had no ER visits in more than a year, so I’m hoping we’ve left behind the years when the ER doc remembers your kid for having the “worse case of X I’ve ever seen”.

  13. mollie June 1, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    I think I am at the opposite extreme at times, figuring that most everything will resolve itself. This can get me into trouble.

    My son once got a rare kind of eye infection that went septic. Over a weekend, of course… here in Canada we have these walk-in clinics, some with extended hours… kind of like “urgent care” in the States, I guess. So he was seen on Friday with a red, puffy, discharging eye, the doc said it was conjunctivitis and sent us home with some drops, and over the weekend, he got much, much worse. Still, I didn’t take him in to the hospital because I’d been told it was nothing, and I’m not one to catastrophize.

    By Monday morning, we figured he ought to see our family doctor and as soon as she looked at him, she called ahead to the hospital to get them ready to receive us. He was in there for a week. It took three or four days of IV antibiotics to stabilize him, and once it was all resolved, the doctor kindly let me know that on the second day, they didn’t think they were “going to be able to bring him around.” Thanks for that.

    Amazingly, he got this rare kind of eye infection AGAIN, same eye, different strain of bacterium, six months later. AGAIN it was on a Friday that he became symptomatic, AGAIN the clinic doc gave us drops, and AGAIN he ended up in hospital hooked up to an IV a couple of days later, this time only for four days.

    So for me, I guess, I learned a little about listening to docs who say, “It’s nothing” when it seems like it’s something. So whether you seek medical advice or not, ultimately, it’s up to us parents to choose a path through childhood’s bumpy road of injuries and maladies.

    My son nearly died, and he was seen by a doctor. Sometimes I have to throw up my hands and say, “I just don’t know how it will all turn out.” We almost lost him. We might yet lose him young, even though he’s robust and healthy. We can’t control every variable, and even though it’s not in vogue, I’m not inclined to try.

    Somehow my experience with him makes me all the more insistent that he go out and LIVE fully— injuries, germs, hurt feelings and mistakes included. This, to me, is acceptance.

  14. katrina June 1, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    Way back in the eighties, my friends and I were playing softball, unsupervised, at our local ball field. My friend got hit in the head- softballs are not soft! SInce my house was the closest, we walked over there, while the game continued. My father put a frozen steak on her head and after 20 minutes she walked home by herself.
    I don’t remember it being a big deal, but she did have a huge black eye for a couple of days. This was a pretty common reaction to a minor wound. No one freaked out, you just took care of it and moved on.

  15. katc June 1, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    Thankfully our pediatrician’s office has a number you can call and see if you need to bring the kid in or not. We’ve used it a few times, and only had to bring the kid in once (he had nursemaid’s elbow, which we’ve since been taught how to fix on our own).

  16. JessieM June 1, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    Reading these is when I suddenly become very grateful for the NHS here in the UK! I really don’t know how some people afford it over there. For example my daughter is a ski racer and in the last eight years has been at the hospital with her more times than I care to count. These have been serious injuries and had I not taken her to hospital anyone would be quite within their rights to question my parenting ability!
    However I often see other parents at ski races who rush onto the slope – mid-race (!) – when their little one falls, despite the fact that they are perfectly fine and are more bothered that they’ve just lost out on a medal than any ‘injury.’ The only time i’ve run up the slope to see my daughter was when she’d fallen, flipped through the air, landed on her head/neck and wasn’t moving. Personally, i can’t help but think that all this over-reaction is teaching their kids to not expect to fall and treat any time that they do as practically life-threatening.

    I also think it takes away from the whole atmosphere of a sporting event when the whole race has to be posponed because one parent is demanding to speak to the head coach and ask why their child wasn’t immediately rushed off the slope to be checked out.

    Just wondering, do any of you on here ski / have kids who ski? I realised the other day that it’s the perfect free-range family activity! 🙂

  17. Yan Seiner June 1, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    @katrina: This is how it usually happens. Most kids are OK even though they suffer all sorts of minor indignities. But that never makes the paper. What makes the paper is when Johnny gets hit in the chest with a soccer ball and dies.

    Now that’s tragic and I don’t wish that on any parent. But there are millions of kids who play soccer and get hit hard and never suffer more than a bruise; those never make the paper. It’s the Monty Python “no news” skit…..

    My kids swim; occasionally a swimmer will miss the turn in a backstroke and hit the wall hard with their head. It’s embarrassing but it happens and I’ve never heard of a kid getting more than a bruised ego out of it.

    I’ve seen 3 particular moms who were the very definitions of helicopter moms; the slightest sniffle meant a visit to the doctor. A kid walked into a kitchen counter and got a small bruise on his head and his mom took him in and demanded an MRI “just in case”.

    Kids get bumped, bruised, and otherwise damaged – and they have a magic self-healing property. The best thing parents can do is educate themselves and learn how to do triage at home.

    If the kid is walking, awake, lucid, and doesn’t appear to have any extra joints or obvious missing pieces, they’re probably OK.

  18. Yan Seiner June 1, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    OK, found it: “The day nothing happened.”


    Perhaps if we had more of this type of news we’d have less Worst First thinking….

  19. Lollipoplover June 1, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    We avoid our local ER and mostly triage through our pediatrician. Cuts and scraps actually are better treated at home- hospitals in our area have high MRSA rates, and we lost a family member to this infection. Cuts and scrapes are normal- it means your kid is active and playing. My youngest wiped out running today and had the hand scrapes and knee scrapes to warrant 4 band aids. This is a normal part of being a kid.

    When I was 9, my best friend and I had the genius idea to walk the cat on a leash as well as our Marley-like yellow lab. I had the dog leash wrapped around my wrist so when the cat freaked out and pulled out of it’s collar, my dog took off after it and broke my wrist and pulled me on my face for a good distance. I never cried (actually my friend was laughing too hard for it to register) and my mom refused to take me to the doctor. She said if it was broken, I would be crying. After cleaning up and inspect my wounds further, my friend and I knew my wrist was messed up so my friend had me put Ben-Gay under my eyes to make it look like it was crying. Mom finally agreed to take me to “Uncle Tony” the ortho doc who put a cast on. No ER needed.

  20. Krista June 1, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    We’ve had our share of ER visits, like the time my son accidentally swallowed a bobby pin and it need to be retrieved by endoscopy, or the time my daughter took a long fall onto our tile floor and had a blown pupil for a bit, or the time she has RSV as 2 weeks and has some apnea episodes.

    But we’ve also had our shares of “traumas” that are easily taken care of at home, like the fact that my son has given himself a black eye on the same eye four times within the last two weeks, or the time my daughter swallowed 15 buttons because I was busy unpicking a fiddly seam. Life goes on.

  21. Michelle June 1, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    SusanOR, that app sounds AWESOME. I’m going to check and see if they have it for Android. If not, does anyone know of something similar?

    I am a bit torn on this issue. Sometimes it is so hard to tell when something is serious. There have been times when I took a kid to the ER for a 104 degree fever (after trying over the counter medications, cool washcloths, etc.), and he ended up feeling better before we were even seen. OTOH, last time I took my daughter to the ER, I was sure it was going to turn out to be nothing, and I almost left because she was playing and chatting away in the waiting room. Turned out her arm was broken in two places. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should all run off to the ER over every little thing — and sure doesn’t mean getting all judgmental of the parent who was actually there, saw the injury happen, and realized it wasn’t that serious.

    It would be nice if those working in the ER were allowed to tell you — in person or over the phone — “This doesn’t look too serious. Here’s what to look for. Come back if you feel like it’s getting worse.” Our local children’s hospital used to have a nurse hotline that parents could call, but they shut it down for fear of being sued. 🙁

  22. surfergirl70 June 1, 2012 at 4:49 am #

    Here’s one to chew on – I serve on the board of my kids’ preschool. Last month, a child who is barely a year old, barely walking, was taken to the ER because of a mild bruise the mom found on his back when she was bathing him that night. The kid had had a tantrum during the day in which he flung himself around while he was crying, so it’s possible that he got the bruise that way, but beyond that, there was no evidence as to how it happened or or when it happened or where it happened. The school has a totally open layout and no opportunities for a teacher to surruptitiously harm a child – there is nowhere they could go that they would be seen.

    The ER doctor looked at the bruise and, BASED UPON ABSOLUTELY NO KNOWLEDGE OF ANYTHING, said, “this is the result of abuse.” The two teachers who were on duty in the classroom with the child are now fired and have a social services finding against them on their records. Their careers are ruined. Because of a small bruise on a toddler’s back, the origins of which are unknown.

  23. Jim Collins June 1, 2012 at 5:09 am #

    My brother-in-law has an interesting take on this subject. When anything happens to one of his kids he takes them to either the ER or the doctor’s office if it is open. His view is that his medical insurance is part of his wages for his job and he intends to use it. After thinking about it, I tend to agree with him my insurance is part of my compensation and if I don’t use it it is throwing money away.

    I wonder how many people feel the same way?

  24. Rachel Lowry June 1, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    I am very interesting in this free-range project/movement. I am a Reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, doing a piece on the benefits of children playing outdoors and would love to speak with you for some five minutes.

    I could not find your email and apologize for such an informal means of contact. Please email me back for further contact.

    Rachel Lowry

  25. Adrienne June 1, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    It had never crossed my mind to ever take my kids to the ER for bumps or bruises. I guess with growing up never going to the ER, and seeing all of my nieces and nephews getting bumps and bruises as a part of growing up, it never occurred to me.

    So, the first time we took any of our kids to the ER, the hubby accidentally slammed our (at the time) 5 yo son’s finger in the door. It was swollen, son crying hysterically. Hubby wanted to take him to the ER to make sure it wasn’t broken, I figured it would be fine to put some ice on it. We took him in, hubby got lucky it wasn’t busy. When we go to the back, before the doc came in, the nurse looked at it and used the words (and I quote) “if this were my daughter (who was the same age as our son), I would put some ice on it and call it good.” Um…my words exactly! We left before the doc came in. Needless to say, son’s finger not broken! When hubby got the bill, he swore never to take either of our kids to the ER unless it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary! Just wish he would’ve thought of that BEFORE we got the bill!

    Since then, we had to take our daughter in twice, within 6 mos! She did need stitches the first time (jumped off hotel bed, hit eyebrow on hotel safe, huge gash). The second time, she fell backwards down off the stairs and hit the back of her head on our ceramic tile floor. Normally I wouldn’t take her in for a fall, however, after about half an hour, she wasn’t her normal, I-want-to-get-into-everything-and-run-and-jump-off-and-climb-up-furniture self. She was a little lethargic and that did freak me out! I tried calling her doc first, but it was lunchtime and nobody was at the desk. After a couple of attempts with no answer, I finally decided to take her in. She ended up being fine, thank God! Here’s to hopin’ it will be a long time for the next visit!

  26. delbounce June 1, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    I had a very unhappy

  27. Selby June 1, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    Jim Collins, if your brother drove his car into a tree to make sure he’s getting the full value of his car insurance, would you follow? I have life insurance through my work, should I off myself to make sure money isn’t left on the table? I have accidental death & dismemberment, too, maybe I should cut off a finger. Give me a break. You are wasting the time of medical professionals who could be treating people who are truly in need. And seriously, if ANYTHING happens, your brother if off to the doctor? Has he no common sense of his own? What kind of message is he sending to his kids, that only a doctor can fix the minorest of boo-boo? That there are no minor boo-boos, everything is a medical emergency? Stop it.

  28. Maggie June 1, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    @Lafe- Not only does every little fever NOT require a trip to the ER or even the doctor, but also the fever itself HELPS fight off the infection. It is OKAY and even helpful for a sick child to have a fever. It’s fine to give tylenol if the child is absolutely miserable, but routinely giving fever reducers for a fever simply because the fever is present works against the body’s own immune response.

  29. skl1 June 1, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    This disturbs me too. The other day on an internet forum, a mom posted that she was concerned about a neighborhood kid (7yo I think) who had a burn on her thigh, which the kid said was from contact with lighter fluid. She was upset because the child’s mom had not taken her to the ER (on a holiday weekend). The burn had been covered and a cream applied based on advice from some relative the mom considered knowledgeable about burns. This concerned neighbor sent her husband (a mandated reporter) over to try to convince the mom that she must take her kid to the ER. The mom called Concerned Neighbor and said she was “uncomfortable” with the man coming over and intimidating her as she felt she had things under control. Concerned Neighbor posted this dilemma on the internet.

    Of course none of us on the internet saw the burn, but we do know that her husband, a mandated reporter, decided not to report it.

    The majority of internet responders declared that Concerned Neighbor should report this mom to CPS. That every burn was potentially life-threatening, that her decision not to take the child to ER suggested she burned the child on purpose, bla bla bla. I commented that in my family we never (really, never) went to the doc/ER for a burn – and we had our fair share of interesting burns. The body heals! (I was roundly attacked for saying bodies heal.) How did a bunch of strangers on the internet without even a photo think they knew better or cared more than the mother who was right there taking care of the wound?

    Personally I’ve also been asked if I’ve taken my kid to the doc for minor wounds. Once I did feel pressured enough to take my kid in after a spider bite gave her a swelling around her eye (looked like she might have been punched). I agree that this is upping healthcare costs in this country, especially considering all you have to go through if you do choose an ER visit. I took my kid to the ER after she got a stitch-worthy cut on her forehead, but afterwards I felt it would have been more sensible to cover the wound and go to the doctor the next day.

    Maybe we should institute a policy saying that whoever recommends an ER visit for our kid gets to supply the co-pay and maybe tag along to watch the siblings during the 6-hour ER visit.

  30. Becca June 1, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    When I was a kid I ran over some broken glass in the road going down the biggest hill in town on my way home from t-ball, I clearly needed stitches, my parents wrapped up my leg and made me eat dinner before taking me to ER.

  31. AW13 June 1, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Right after we moved into our house, my son was making his way down the basement stairs and from about three steps up, slipped and fell, sliding across the cement floor. I was doing laundry in the basement, so I flew over to him. I heard my husbands footsteps racing across the kitchen floor and down the stairs. My son was upset, of course, and had a large goose egg. But my husband did a range of motion check, checked his pupils, and monitored him for signs of a head injury, and he was fine. There are benefits to being married to a nurse. 🙂

    On the other hand, when he was not quite 1, I took him to the ER for a high fever that wouldn’t break. The doc diagnosed him with an ear infection, and we went to a 24 hour pharmacy (of course this happened at about midnight), and returned home. The next night, he awoke at about 4 am, screaming, and when I picked him up, he was on fire. I took his temp, and it was 104.5 so we rushed him to a different ER where the doc took one look at him, said “he has the swine flu, we’re going to give him an IV to rehydrate him, get his temp down, and then you can go home.” When I asked about the ear infection, I was told that it was an old infection and was already healing, so there was no way that was the problem. And I don’t believe we’ve been to the ER for him since.

  32. Sandra Parsons June 1, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    I have to agree on the overuse of ER capacities for minor cuts and bruises. The only time I freaked out was when we got home from visiting family in Connecticut, and I discovered a tick in a fold of skin in the back of my 3-months old boy’s neck. I was a first-time mom and had no experience with ticks (they are not very common in Berlin, Germany). The ER nurse took care of it and that was the last time an ER saw us in 3 years. And before someone asks, yes, we did take our new baby on an intercontinental flight. He was asleep most of the time anyway.

    What ticks me off even more than “OMG, a head injury!” is the notion that a girl/woman has to be pretty, therefore scarring should be avoided at all cost. Why is it different for boys and why is a tiny scar from a childhood scrape so disfiguring that this girl will never find a husband/be successful in her life? I just don’t get it!

  33. Ra-chan (@musicchan) June 1, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    I grew up in the States but moved to Canada when I got married. One of the things I have the hardest time adjusting to is how often people go to the doctor for things I wouldn’t even consider going to the doctor for. Got the sniffles? Go to the doctor! Sprained an ankle, go to the doctor! Having health care is great, especially if you have something that doesn’t go away on it’s own, but I think people tend to over-abuse it.

    I mean, the one time I cut my finger wide open with a broken glass while washing dishes, I had to wait at the ER for 4 hours to get it stitched up because there were still a ton of people there who needed to get looked at. I wasn’t in danger of bleeding to death because I knew what to do and applied pressure to it, but that’s still a long time to wait to get stitches.

    I hope when I have my first kid, I don’t get all overly-anxious about them and take them to the Urgent Care or ER all the time. As long as there’s a doctor I can call for advice every now and again, I think I’d be fine with it.

  34. Krista June 1, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Reading all these “war stories” reminded me of the time I stepped on a piece of glass and got it deeply embedded in my heel. My dad cut it out of my foot with his pocket knife, bandaged it up, and instructed me to not put any weight on it. It healed (heeled?) up fine.

  35. Jim Collins June 1, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    You are comparing apples and oranges. Get real. The point that I am trying to make is that health insurance shouldn’t be tied to your wages.
    As far as wasting the time of health care professionals goes, it isn’t my fault if they are understaffed. Put a few more doctors and nurses to work. Last time I checked unemployment is running pretty high. Where did the belief that medical care resources are scarce or finite come from?
    He doesn’t go running to the doctors for every little thing, but, if there is any doubt about an illness or injury, he won’t hesitate to get care. If their doctor’s office is open he takes them there, if not it used to be the ER, until our local hospital opened a clinic with a nurse practioner availible 24-7. Up until that time there was no place else to go.

    If you want medical costs to go down, get rid of insurance. 40% of costs go toward filing paperwork for insurance and government claims. I could never figure out why there has to be people to process the claims at the State and Federal levels. It is the same paperwork, get rid of one or the other. The people necessary to do the paperwork at my local hospital, fill three, five story buildings. There are four doctors in the office I go to. Each doctor has a nurse and a receptionist. The other fifteen people are there to just do the insurance paperwork. As it is with my job, only the people putting product out the door are making the company any money, everybody else, including myself, are just overhead.

    Rant completed.

  36. Yan Seiner June 1, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    @Sandra: On the scarring… I really, really wish more people (women in particular) believed that. Scars (at least minor, non-disfiguring scars) tell the tale of your life. My daughter has 2 scars on her face; one from an old playground injury and one from a fencepost during a race. She wants to keep both of them. (To be truthful both are so small that you have to know where to look, but one took 5 or 6 stitches to close. She’s proud of that one.)

    Scars tell the story of where we’ve been, what we’ve done. They’re both a reminder of our stupidity (my nearly severed finger, a result of showing up severely hung over for work when I was still young and stupid) or our achievements (my wife’s missing toenails from running several marathons back to back).

  37. hineata June 1, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    @surfergirl70 – I sincerely hope that ‘bruise’ wasn’t a ‘ mongolian mark’ or anything ….always had to point my kids’ ones out to carers and doctors prior to any kind of treatment or care, as it was amazing the number who’d never heard of them. My daughter had a huge one on her butt for years, that looked like someone had been taking the sasa broom to her…..

    @Kevin, sortof agree with you, actually. I find the whole ER thing a bit hard.I usually end up not taking them when I should have, though, like the time my hubby accidentally broke my son’s leg….:-) Fortunately our ‘ER’s are so ridiculously understaffed that unless people are truly desperate they don’t bother….It’s often faster to phone a taxi. The immigrant driver is often a foreign trained doctor or engineer unable to get their quals recognised here – you just hope you get the right one! 😉

  38. Jen Connelly June 1, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    Our insurance won’t cover an ER visit if it isn’t for an actual emergency. Scraping your face would not fall into that. They would not pay the full amount and we’d be stuck with the huge hospital bill on top of the $150 copay we have for the ER.

    We have 5 kids (between 12 and 2) and in all those years we’ve been to the ER three times. Once for a really high fever when our oldest was 11 months and again when she was like 3 for what appeared to be a migraine (she wouldn’t stop screaming and it was a Sunday). And once for my son when he was 2 and his elbow popped out of the socket. That was back in 2004. He’s almost 11 now and hasn’t made a trip back.

    We’ve had a few injuries but nothing we thought required emergency care. The worst was probably my middle daughter stepping on glass when she was 6. We rushed her to urgent care (because they were about to close). She didn’t even need a stitch and was fine a few days later. She’s our accident prone one and if we went to the ER for every scraped knee we’d be there all the time. In the last year she has torn her knee up 3 or 4 times. I mean tore up. It was a mess and we had to do painful bandage changes while it healed. She’s gotten pretty good at doing first aid on herself, lol.

    They’ve also rarely had sick visits. Like a handful of times over all these years (that’s all of them together, not each). I barely even know their doctor because I only see him/her for well visits (when we don’t forget).

  39. Michelle B. June 1, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    This makes me think of our recent experience with our one year old daughter. She had a fever of 102.5 the other day and was rather lethargic. There were no other symptoms so we gave her Tylenol as needed and as much water as she would drink, then let her sleep. We kept a close eye on her temp as febrile seizures run in my family, but she turned out to be fine. We figured it was a virus causing it, and never took her in. So we avoided an expensive, and most likely long visit to the ER with a grumpy sick baby. Our insurance has a nurse hotline, but whenever you call they only tell you to go in. They won’t give you any real advice, I guess because of lawsuits.

  40. Tanya June 1, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Just today my son went down with a mild fever and is congested and pretty much everyone who sees him or I’ve talked to have asked me if I’m taking him to the Doctors office. Seriously? I’m not taking my kid, who’s body is doing a nice job of fighting off infection all on its own, but who might currently have a depressed immune system as a result, into a germ infested doctors office, just to be told he has a virus and there is nothing they can do. What is wrong with people? My kids are climbers and so fall and bump their heads a lot. So long as they aren’t throwing up or unusually drowsy there is no need to worry.

  41. Ms. Herbert June 1, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Unlike other posters here – the ER an I were well acquainted when I was a kid. I’ve easily made nearly 20 visits in 40+ years.I’m the person who walks up to triage and gets wisked to the back leaving special snowflake Mom yelling at the triage nurse. Peanuts/peanut oil hide in amazing places, and anaphlaxis gets you to the head of the line every time.

    A coworker recently was upset with herself because her son broke his hand went 48 hours of them thinking it was just bruised. Within a week he broke the other hand. It told her how sis once went 72 hours with an untreated broken wrist. Still I hold the family record – my broken nose went undiagnosed/untreated for 30+ years.

    Just a quick BTW – When teachers, at least at my school, ask if you needed to take child to the ER are not accusing you of abuse or neglect. You might not recognize your child’s story come lunch time. Example a kid came in with facial bruises torn up lip – told his teacher he fell from the roof – truth he face planted going up the cement stairs at the apartments. Getting the story from the adult means our nurse has an accurate account, if wild rumors fly. Also at my school, our students have access to a free clinic. If a parent wants a child checked out – we can send them on the bus to the clinic. The bus brings them back with medical paper work and even free medicine. (The form that is sent to the child has their name and I think photo from the school system along with history and symptoms to help make sure the kids, especially the little ones get seen for the correct issues.)

  42. This girl loves to talk June 1, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    these people must get a pay off from going to the drs? I see a dr who 80% of the time says they are fine, will be right in a few days etc and I rarely go – so many friends go for colds, vomit bugs etc. Are they being told something I’m not? or is it just piece of mind?

    I once went to er 9 months pregnant, with 3 other sick kids cause one of them had been vomiting for 5 days, waited for hours, kids fell asleep and I had to carry, push them all in the pram home 5 blocks… nothing was wrong 🙁 A nurse did comment to me that perhaps I will go into labour so I can come to the hospital for a rest 🙂

  43. Metanoia (@metanoia_chan) June 1, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    I’m a girl and I have a scar in the middle of my forehead because I face-planted into the corner of a wall twice when I was under the age of about 2. The second time was bad enough for a hospital trip and stitches. People told my mum she should get me plastic surgery, but mum insisted I wait till a teenager and see if I wanted that. I still haven’t had plastic surgery and I’m in my 30s now. The scar is still there but barely noticeable these days though I did get lots of questions in my teens and early twenties. It is a war wound, and part of me. Having a scar in a very prominent place hasn’t effected my life in any kind of detrimental way aside from having to answer the occasional question with “yes I was a clumsy child… want to see the scars on my knees and elbows too?”

  44. skl1 June 1, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    I sport a scar on my forehead from a pretty big gash that I achieved at age 2 (43 years ago). I must admit that I am glad my bangs cover it up.

  45. Metanoia (@metanoia_chan) June 1, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    @Lollipoplover I think it is important to keep in the back of the mind that shock with a broken bone means that the child might not cry. Like you, when I broke my ankle it was hours before I cried but I knew it was broken. I was at school and after I broke it (hurdling on sports day) I had friends help me to the nurses office because I couldn’t walk. The nurse didn’t believe me and treated a couple of sprains before she would see to me. I insisted that she call my mum. I had to insist multiple times. An hour later the doc confirmed it was broken and I had to go to hospital which was over an hour away and we had to wait till dad got home from work. It was about 5 or 6 hours before it actually started hurting and I was in tears from the pain and longer till I could get seen in the hospital for x-rays and a cast. The actual breaking of the bone moment didn’t hurt at all though.

  46. Donna June 1, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    @skl1 – My kid burned her hand making rice krispy treats a few years ago. I never took her to the ER. She had a small blister, it healed fine and there isn’t even a scar. I did go back and forth for awhile as to whether she needed to go or not but she stopped crying and started playing so I left it alone. Last year, I met a hospital social worker (sister of a coworker) and became very glad I didn’t take her to the hospital. Not only would I have had to deal with CPS as all childhood burns are reported, but there is no burn treatment at our local hospitals. I would have had to take her 2 hours away to the burn unit in Augusta. And, while the burn itself would never have been an issue, refusing to drive 2 hours for treatment after being referred would have had CPS coming down on my head.

    I went to the ER a handful of times as a kid. One when I was really young for falling face first onto the cement around a pool and putting my teeth through my bottom lip. Once for a broken finger. Once when I tore all the tendons in my ankle (the ankle looked GNARLY). That’s about it.

    My daughter has yet to go to the ER (knock wood).

  47. Tawnya June 1, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Oh man do I understand this one! My two year old took a spill off a picnic bench at a yogurt place last week and hit his head. He stopped crying in less than a minute. I looked him over and decided that my child–my fourth son. Thankyouverymuch–was fine. Apparently someone else disagreed. A firetruck pulled up minutes later while I was buckling him into his carseat to go get his big bros from school. The firemen were looking for “the small child who fell on his head”…Oy vay. I said he was fine, finished buckling and hurried to my van door since it was close to school pick up time. Now the fire fighter wanted to know why I was hurrying! He accepted my answer that I needed to pick up my kids, but what a sad, ridiculous waste of community resources!!

  48. Chrissy @ muse of the morning June 1, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    OMGoodness that is just ridiculous! It reminds me of when my 6 year old had her last seizure. She had febrile seizures from the time she was 6 mos until she was about 5. They come when her fever would spike. Just toward the end (maybe even the last one!) they started getting longer and kind of scarier.
    When I called the doctor to see if I should do anything, I spoke with the nurse. Her immediate question was, had I brought her in for her fever?
    WHA??? No, of course not, it’s just a fever, she just had a little cold and lo’ and behold, she was fine a day later. But what kind of culture are we creating when children have to be brought into the doctor for every little fever?

    My son has only been brought in for one fever- and that was because he was acting “off”. It didn’t feel right. So I went with my gut, went in to the doctor and indeed, he had a kidney infection, so that was the right choice. But every other fever my children have had has just been a little cold and it’s gotten better in the next day or two- why would I spend my money to bring them in for that?

  49. jonathan June 1, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    My advice? Leave these people to their own “wonder state”. It’s like the movie ” dawn of the dead” where you have these zombies that have been permenently infected by a “bite”. Well, the bite today we are talking about is the incessent, mind numbing rat a tat of this culture’s need to scare people. Perhaps it’s for profit, perhaps it’s something more sinster. What we do know is that by this accelerated progression of a “triage” society, we are duping ourselves into the belief that “more is more” when the opposite is true. It’s really hard to witness and I hope things change but it will not be easy.

  50. Adrienne June 1, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Oh yeah! I forgot to mention the scar under my eye from when I had tear duct surgery from when I was 9 mos old. Has been there ever since and that was from a doctor (and at the time couldn’t be helped). With this scar being right under my left eye, it is very noticeable since most people I know have good eye contact while conversing. Even when I look in the mirror, I don’t notice it myself. People see passed things and I believe there are more people who see passed the physical beauty and look at the inner beauty (Seal anyone?) Nobody has ever said anything about it in my 30+ years of life. I’ve never had problems in the social department and if I did, it was never about my scar. I have been married for 10 years and have 2 beautiful kids and the scar has never had any effect on any relation I’ve ever had!

  51. Jespren June 1, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    Oh vey, one thing about having a crappy immune system but a very active childhood is it’s *really* hard to get stressed out about normal illnesses and bumps and bruises. Thankfully our current peds doc is comfortable knowing I’m familiar and competent enough to home treat. Which means when my overly paranoid complete helicopter of a mother-in-law starts freaking out because they have a cold (I swear the woman probably averages 1 ER visit a month) I can say ‘the doctor says they don’t need to be seen unless XYZ’. We’ve had a couple ER visits, an RSV infection with breathing difficulties, a pretty significant head gash from a fall, stuff like that. But it amazes me what people will go to the EMERGENCY room for. I’m also ticked, however, how many non-emergent things the doctor’s office or urgent care office won’t treat and send you, completely unnecessarily in my opinion, to the ER for. Why can’t I go to the regular doctor or an urgent care for a simple break or set of stitches? These things aren’t emergencies, but if you need stitches, or an xray to check for a broken bone, your only choice (in the places I’ve lived) have been the ER. So the overuse of ERs, while primarily driven by overly paranoid people with worst-first thinking, is partically to be blamed on the medical establishment. I’ve been told to go to the ER to get a standard script for an ear infection or bronchistis because the urgent care wouldn’t prescribe to a pregnant woman!

  52. Emily June 1, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Easy solution, folks–bubble wrap the world!!! That’s right–we must protect every hard, rough surface, every sharp corner, and everything that even looks like it might be breakable……and no vehicle can travel faster than a crawl. That way, no child will ever get hurt, and there’ll be much less traffic in the emergency rooms. Alternatively, I suppose we could use Common Sense, but he apparently died a few years ago: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~srmanis/tractsweb/The%20Funeral%20For%20Common%20Sense.html

  53. Emily June 1, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    this sort of thing is exactly why I give new parents a copy of a book called “If your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still be OK.” It’s by an ER Pediatrician and it has very nice guidelines for when to chill out, when to call, and when to head directly to the ER. I feel it should be handed out when you leave the hospital with your newborn. To keep people from freaking out over things like a scrape on the face. (I hope she heals quickly, those can be gnarly.)

  54. Cathy June 1, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    I am very glad I have my mom and older sisters to turn to…or else I might have bought into the fear of every little scrape my kids get. They’ve helped keep me sane by teaching me how to handle things. I have also been very lucky so far *knock on wood* none of the kids have been seriously ill. I am the only mother I know with kids my age(2 and 1) who hasn’t been to the ER. It’s the same thing with pregnancy, anytime someone posts online about cramping or every little pain they go calling their OB and running to the ER “just to be safe” I admit I did this before during my first pregnancy….so maybe the not constantly worrying comes with experience. Unless I’m bleeding or in labor or haven’t felt baby move in days, I won’t be going to the ER. I don’t know when it comes to pregnancy and parenting I think there’s too much information and sharing sometimes about all the horrible things that can, but most likely won’t, happen. So much so it creates tons of paranoia and fear for those who really shouldn’t be worrying. Causes a condition seems everyone in society has learned to live with daily….chronic stress and anxiety.

  55. North of 49 June 1, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Because if we don’t, the local child protection people could be at our door demanding that we prove to them we are beyond good parents to get them out of our lives.

  56. ebohlman June 1, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Tanya: You bring up an important point. Every time you take a kid to the doctor’s office or, worse, the ER, they’re going to be around a bunch of people who may have something contagious. Therefore, it’s not a zero-risk alternative. There are obviously cases where those risks are worth it, but “take them for everything, no matter how minor” isn’t.

  57. Jenna June 1, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    My brother took his daughter to the ER twice in a two-week time period–once for a broken arm and once because she got a really horrible cut that needed stitches. Because of this, his family was put under investigation for child abuse by CPS. My niece happens to be one of the most active, outdoorsy, active children I know and she gets into things and mishaps happen. I’m surprised that parents are so inclined to rush their children to the ER when if they do it more than once a month, CPS might come a-knockin’.

    On another note, my son (age 9) had a nasty fall from his bike on “Take Your Kids to the Park…” Day. It was actually lucky I was there–I had let him and his brothers (ages 7 and 5) ride their bikes over to the park and then I joined them with the littlest ones (ages 4 and 1) about 30 minutes later. I had just arrived when he rode his bike down the hilly bike path and totally biffed it. He was pretty scraped up–arms, legs, face–and he even broke a permanent tooth and dislocated another permanent tooth. The parents who were there helping me calm him and clean him up were all telling me I needed to take him to the ER. Instead, once I got him calm, his bike and the rest of the gang home (we live around the corner from the park), I called his dentist about the tooth. One of his scrapes/cuts looked pretty deep, so I took him to Urgent Care to check about stitches and let them clean him up while I waited for the dentist to call back. Turns out he didn’t need stitches, but I was okay letting them deep clean him–they did a better job than I would have. The dentist was able to see him about an hour later and fix his tooth (by putting pins in it and then rebuilding the tooth with resin). If the dentist hadn’t been available, I might have taken him to the ER just because of the tooth because if he had broken it up to the nerve, he would have needed a root canal and would have been in pain all weekend. Luckily, it wasn’t broken that high up AND the dentist was able to see him right away. Our Urgent Care is closer to home and has a less expensive co-pay, so I always opt to take my kids there if they really need to see someone. The point is, sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct and sometimes, they really do need stitches.

  58. Jennaya June 1, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    I am a teacher and do feel compelled to comment on this. Worst-first thinking is a nightmare at schools! I had a student come into the staff room whilst I was on care duty with a hurt finger. I checked it and told her to come back if it became bruised or swollen, she didnt. The next day a more senior teacher asked me if I had been the one to treat her as her mother had called the school asking why her daughter wasn’t given an ice pack. This made me panic as I thought I had overlooked something serious. Not the case. Her mother was in a huff because I had not put an ice pack on a perfectly fine finger.

  59. AshtaraSilunar June 1, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    I only went to the ER a couple times as a kid, and that was for horribly bad swimmer’s ear (my eardrum is permanently scarred), not scrapes. I got plenty of scrapes and bruises. My mom tells me that I was always black and blue from the knees down as a kid, from running into things, and she worried that people would think she was beating me.

    I was more of a bookworm than a really adventurous kid, but I definitely had my share of scrapes and bruises. The worst was sliding on gravel while bike riding, and losing all the skin on my knees and elbows. In retrospect, I’m reasonably certain I blacked out on impact. But I got up, limped home with my bike, and got mom to help me with the giant bandaids and gauze.

    I figure that for a healthy child, broken bones are the main reason to go to the ER. I would say concussions as well, but REAL concussion risk; so many parents freak out at the slightest bump on the head.

  60. Sarah June 1, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    I’ve gotten this same comment when one of my kids has hit his head. No, sorry, I am not going to take him to the ER and try desperately to find some way to entertain him for HOURS while we wait for someone to finally tell us that he’s fine. I’ve read up on the signs to look for–dizziness, vomiting, etc. If he’s perfectly happy and normal I see no reason to put him (or me) through that.

    Yet I’ve known moms who won’t let their kids go to sleep after a fall (which is no longer advised by doctors). And I’ve known parents who do literally go to the ER every time. And they often fill their time there complaining about how long it’s taking on Facebook! Really? We need 15 updates of how bored you are, followed up by “Oh, and it turns out my kid is fine”?! I swear, some people seem to treat it like bragging when they talk about how many times they’ve had to take their children to the hospital. 😛

  61. Ben June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Completely agree about not going to the E-room for scrapes, bruises, etc. I coach girl’s softball (3/4 grades) and the town required coaches to take an online concussion recognition and treatment course this year. Actually pretty interesting and makes you think. Fortunately most of the girl’s that got hit by a ball it is on the leg or back, so a few tears and back to it. On the going to the Ped. ofc, however, I tend to go if my daughter has a fever more than a day – I think this is a symptom of dual working couples and you’re hoping against hope for a magic drug to get the kid better and you and spouse back to work quicker. Unfortunately, it’s usually a virus!

  62. skl1 June 1, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    You guys are reminding me of some of my childhood memories. When I was about 7, I had a used bike and the handlebars would periodically come loose from the front fork. So I was whizzing down the street and my front tire starts taking on a life of its own. I ended up crashing my head onto a sharp kerb. I recall coming to awareness at my grandmother’s house some time later. Apparently I had been walking around and acting more or less normal, but I was out of it. I tried to explain to my parents that I didn’t remember anything since hitting my head, but they thought I was making it up to get attention. Needless to say, I did not see a doctor. I had at least one other incident of banging my head, being briefly knocked out, and not seeing a doctor. I guess it’s amazing I’m still alive.

    When I was a tot, I had an unspoken goal to climb to the top of our attic stairs (they were uncarpeted and went straight up – no intermediate landing). I would wait for my mom to turn her back and then start my ascent, inevitably tumbling down before reaching my goal. So I was covered with bruises. Then one day, when I was just two, I was climbing on furniture with my brothers and ended up with a bad gash on my forehead. My mom took me to the ER, where I was questioned extensively, in and out of my mom’s presence, to determine if I had been abused. My mom said that not only did the bruises and the gash suggest this, but also (a) the fact that I didn’t cry while being treated and (b) the fact that I refused to pee until I was on a toilet, even though I had to wait a long time for the opportunity. Ultimately I must have given the right answers, but I can imagine it would have been very scary for my mom.

  63. Kay June 1, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    When my daughter was in pre-school the class went for a walk around the school and she tripped- face planted- as they all do. By the time I got her at the end of the day she was acting normal- just with major road rash down the side of her face, across her eye. It looked pretty bad with some deep looking cuts. Other than making a mental note that when we got home I needed to clean it out because it was covered in dirt and gravel & dried blood by that time I didn’t give it a second thought.

    I got her and her two older brothers and went to the doctor’s office for my older son’s appointment for booster shots. When the doctor came in he said hi to me, hi to the kids, looked at the chart to verify which one he was checking on. He then said to me- “I know we are here for J but I’m going to clean her up first and make sure she’s alright.” I shrugged- still not thinking there was anything “wrong” with her.

    He cleaned up all the road rash, got all the dirt and gravel out of it, and then proceeded to cover it all up. He told me that if I didn’t want it to scar since it took up about a third of her face to treat it like a burn and keep it covered and don’t let it dry out.

    So that’s what I did. I kept burn patches on it for about two weeks. Kept everything covered up but clean (no neosporin or other antibiotics), changed the burn patches when they needed it every few days. About two weeks later there wasn’t any need to replace the pads- she was completely healed- and yep- no scars at all what so ever. There are no marks on her face, anywhere. I’ve treated other significant cuts the same way and kept them clean but covered in a burn patch and have gotten the same results- no scar at all. Even when my nephew, who has a dark olive complexion (his father is Malaysian) didn’t scar when he got a huge, deep cut on his face. There is no sign anywhere that he’s ever been cut.

  64. Sherri June 1, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    I rushed my first child to the ER three times by the time he was two. Once he needed stitches. The other two times I had calmed down enough to realize he was OK, and left shortly after our arrival. My second child has never been to the ER. As far as illnesses go, I let them tell me whether they need to see the doctor or not. They are pretty good judges of how sick they are.

  65. Debra Wasserman June 1, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I have worked in ER/ trauma centers for years.
    The trauma protocol has changed as well. Now if a child falls more
    Than 8 feet it is a trauma alert. This means a kid falling from a tree is a trauma. Alert. This includes, a trip in an ambulance, clothes cut off, bloodwork, 5-6 surgeons, 4 nurses at least hysteria , ct scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, catheters, oxygen… Etc. not to mention the mothers drama of standing out in the hallway shaking and crying that her baby needs a bandaid. Really? How many trees did you all fall out of ??? This has become so ridiculous I cant stand it.
    I can’t tell you how many patients I see everyday for non sense… They are over diagnosing, over radiating and then we are blamed for how much we are radiating these kids…
    My son ate the driveway one time thinking he was in the Xgames… I put him in the shower, put Ice on his knees and elbows, and put him To bed… When he woke up from his nap a few hours later, and underneath the ice the swelling was out of control, only then did I go to the ER. And only because nothing should swell after iced for that Long unless broken. … I demeteremed by the ER doc, for not coming sooner… Whatever! I read him the riot act about my employment history ( as opposed to his small town bull crap hospital) and asked why would I bring him to ER. For neosporin
    and gauze that I can get for 1.99 at Walgreens.
    He didn’t have too much to say, though I am surprised that DCF was not called.
    I could be the mom who calls around after the kid swallowed a metal ball, and while hysterical crying asking what could happen to her baby…. Um, nothing, but If you continue to act like an ass in front of your kid, your you going to get an ass for a kid…. So when told to give the kid corn, and watch his poop, when the. Corn comes out, then watch for the ball… She lost it! Screaming and telling me I was a moron .( yup that trauma room history gives me moron status), SHE. Was calling Her Doc….found out… DOC TOLD HER TO GIVE THE KID CORN, and watch his poop… Yup! I am an idiot!

  66. Eat. Home. Live. June 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    People take their kids to the ER and doctor for everything these days. I know people who take their kids for a stomach virus after one day of throwing up. I really feel like the entire parental population of the US has gone insane sometimes.

    Just know that the people asking you are the crazy ones, not you. If I were you, I would ask them very seriously what they think the ER would do for my child. Then I would watch them stammer to answer. There is literally nothing the ER can do. Nothing.

  67. dallassteph June 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    When my son started walking, he was bruised from head to toe, and I was worried the doc would call someone to check on me for child endangerment. Luckily I had picked and old-school doctor and his first comment to me when I took my son for his checkup was “Ah, I see he’s started walking.” “Yes” I said, and commented how I was afraid he would be concerned. He said, “Unless he falls backwards and hits his head so hard he passes out…don’t come to see me. If he passes out, it could be a concussion, but otherwise, don’t worry, he’s a boy.” At least there are some people with common sense left in the world.

  68. hineata June 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    @Jespren -when you talk about having a crappy immune system, do you mean you yourself have one? Just wondering, because we just last week learnt our little ‘Midge’ evidently doesn’t produce two out of the three main antibody groups. Doctors are now talking trips to Auckland to talk to specialists, and transfusions of antibodies, and how ‘serious’ it supposedly is. This for a kid who at 12 has only had two chest infections – multiple ear infections, but a lot of kids get those. (She gets high fevers too, 40-41 degrees plus, but aside from talking freaky during them she has no longterm issues!).

    All this seems a little like overkill, now that I have calmed down (the initial little talk last week almost had me helicoptering, LOL!).

    Did you need anything like this? And if you did, was it worth it? Sorry to be nosy, just haven’t come across an actual human being who can tell me about their experiences, and wondering if it’s worth treating…..


  69. Havva June 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I second Emily’s recommendation for “If your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still be OK.” Its a good reference, and if you don’t get nervous reading about bad things that *could* happen, its a pretty funny read.

  70. Yorick June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    > Maybe we should institute a policy saying that whoever
    > recommends an ER visit for our kid gets to supply the co-pay
    > and maybe tag along to watch the siblings during the
    > 6-hour ER visit.

    A trip to ER will cost me $1,000-$2,000. My deductible is bigger than that, so guess who pays. While I wouldn’t run to ER needlessly anyway, it sure enforces the absolutely make sure it is serious. Urgent care gets the call first if available.

    For everyone else who can take your kids to ER willy nilly and pay $10, thanks a bunch for making the only insurance I can afford for my kids expensive and have a really high deductible.

  71. danan June 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    I’m jealous. I love scars, but mine never seem to be visible more than five years. They fade away, though I do have a few numb spots.I think scars look great on woman and men.Slight imperfections, like tooth gaps, are often quite gorgeous.

  72. gap.runner June 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Crazy! When I was a kid, going to the ER was almost a rite of passage. But you only went there when the injury was truly serious, like a broken bone or a cut that required stitches. Otherwise your parents bandaged you up and sent you on your way. It was also fun as a kid to compete for who had the best scar. I still have a small scar under my right eye from when I got hit by a rock during a rock fight with some neighborhood kids (despite stitches) when I was 11. I have another one on my left index finger from when I was cutting oranges at age 9 with a sharp knife and obviously missed the orange. My parents bandaged my finger and told me to be more careful next time.

    I tell my son that cuts and bruises are part of being a “real boy.” If I took my son to the ER for every little cut or bruise, we might as well pitch a tent there because we’d be going almost every day. He has only been to the ER once, when he sprained his ankle last year. He couldn’t walk, so I took him to the ER for an x-ray. Fortunately, I live in a small city and the local hospital is generally quiet except during ski season.

  73. Moldoon June 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm #


    1 – I find the internet to be very useful in the midnight “should we go to the ER”-type situations. WebMD and the Mayo Clinic sites both tell you when to wait and see, ehen to call the doctor in the morning, and when to go to the ER? Specifically, when my 1 year old had croup, those resources assured me that, no matter how bad things may seem, my son was not dying.

    2 – I’m lucky to have a hospital that will help me over the phone. I’ve called twice – once when I thought my son had heat stroke, and once 3 days post-partum with my daughter when she was screaming non-stop and wouldn’t eat and, in my hormonal state, was convinced that something was terribly wrong with her. Both times they were completely helpful – told me things to try and what to watch for – but did not push me to rush to the ER.

    Point is, I don’t think it’s abnormal for parents to consider the worst when their kids are hurt or sick. But it is concerning that the trend seems to be toward not thinking critically about a situation and trying to sort out the reality from the boogeymen in your head telling you that your kid could be the one who is going to be the next news story.

  74. ebohlman June 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Jenna: There’s actually very little an ER can/will do about dental injuries: Unless you or your kid is experiencing serious blood loss or something like that, they’ll just give you Tylenol or the like, tell you to contact a dentist, and bill you at least several hundred dollars. It doesn’t really make rational sense, but dentistry is considered a separate practice with its own scope outside that of medicine (since dentistry is primarily a surgical specialty, I’m guessing it’s due to the historical separation of surgery and medicine, which only recently were (mostly) integrated). Nobody on hospital staff is likely to be licensed to practice it.

  75. Brandi June 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    From an ER nurse who sees this worst first thinking and unneeded ER visits on a daily basis, thank you! Common sense and learning to cope are becoming an all too uncommon occurance in our society. I frequently see college students in the department who are completely unable to cope with even the most minor injury or illness. Thank you for teaching your child how to cope with minor injuries and illnesses. It will serve her well in the future and she will know what a “real” emergency truly is.

  76. Nicole K June 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Off topic, but here’s today’s Dear Abby. Scary stuff!:

    DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother with three children. Several years ago we bought a puppy. When we got her, we were told if she ever gets lost, she could be located through the chip that had been placed in her. (The breeder said it was just a “shot.”) You can also buy a car these days with a global positioning device installed so the car can be located if it is stolen.

    The cost for the police to find a missing child has got to be astronomical. Wouldn’t it be much cheaper to come up with global positioning chips for our children?

    They do it for dogs and cats. When will we make our children safer than we do our pets and our cars? — JUST THINKING IN FLORIDA

    DEAR JUST THINKING: You have come up with an interesting concept, and not just one for small children. It could work for members of the military and workers who go abroad to dangerous locations, and also for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who might wander.

  77. bmommyx2 June 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    For me it really depends on the age of the child. My kids are still little. If the child is not old enough or verbal enough to communicate clearly if they are OK I err on the side of caution. Of course I wouldn’t run to the ER, but I would call my pediatrician & I might go to his office if that was their recommendation. I wouldn’t take a chance with a possible head injury.

  78. Lola June 1, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    As a FR mum, I want to be prepared for NORMAL dangers. My experience has taught me that small children fall a lot, and are sick many times. Knowing when to be worried or not is really a matter of documentation and expertise: the first time one of my kids needed stitches, I made sure I asked everything there is to know about traumatisms, and now I normally don’t bother going to the ER for that, if I can do with those adhesive pseudo-stitches you can buy in a drugstore…
    Don’t be too harsh on those people who panic with little things; be happy for them, because they don’t heve a clue about real tragedies. My approach to them is usually to overload them with all the tiny details: “I didn’t take her to the ER because there was no unconciousness, blurry vision, persistent headache, unnatural sleepiness, vomiting, uncontrolled bleeding, she could move freely and all bruises were superficial. Plus, the blow was on the face; if it had been on the temples, I would have been really concerned…”
    (The subliminal message here being “Who’s the careless parent here? I’ve trained myself to confront real emergencies, and you can’t even tell when there’s one!)

  79. Susan June 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    If I had the confidence that Jen had, I would be $2500 richer!

    Last year, we were at our elementary school swim night at the local swimming pool. My son, who was in kindergarten, was running beside the pool (argh!), slipped and hit his head hard on the cement. He fell right where all the parents were sitting and it made a loud thud, so just about everyone heard or saw it.

    My son was screaming bloody murder. I called my husband to come pick him up. Another mom, who is a doctor, looked at him and calmly told me he was probably fine and not too worry unless we could not wake him up.

    As I sat holding my son waiting for my husband, parent after parent after parent came up to me very worried and concerned telling me I should take him to the hospital. By the time my husband picked us up, I was a nervous wreck.

    A couple hours later, I tried to wake him up (for about the 20th time) and couldn’t. Of course, he was a 6 year old boy who had swam for a couple of hours, cried for 30 minutes, been woken up repeatedly by his looney mother, and it was 2 hours past his bedtime. However, in my paranoid state, I insisted we take him to the hospital. This meant waking up his two sisters and piling everyone into the car to go to the emergency room.

    One expensive MRI later, we learned he was fine, which really was my original reaction when the accident first occurred. However, the parade of concerned parents made me so nervous that I was sure that if I did not take him to the ER, something horrible would happen.

  80. Caroline June 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    This trend annoys me so much about parents of my generation, and the pediatricians, by the way, who are often recommending this course of action. In my small group of close friends, there are 8 kids ranging in age from 9 months to 5 years and every single one of those kids, except my two, has been to the ER for things that are definitely not emergencies. ERs are such horrible places, that unless NOT going to the ER will kill my kids, we will definitely skip going.

    Now about the pediatricians– a few months ago when my youngest was 6 months old, I noticed a pus-filled abscess on his finger. It was a Saturday when my ped’s office has limited hours, but it wasn’t our ped’s weekend to work. I described the place on my son’s finger, and without asking me a single question, the physician covering our Dr’s patients told me to take him to the ER because it would have to be lanced and the ER had better pain management tools than the Dr’s office did.

    Now here’s the part that I’m not proud of (but it was a learning experience): I thought, “OMG, the Dr, the person we trust, said to take him to the ER so it must be really serious and I definitely need to take him to the ER!!!!!!!!!!!” and I flipped out a little b/c if I have to take him to the ER, it must be really serious, right??? Well, my husband is a little more level-headed in the face of this kind of stress because he called back and convinced the Dr to let us come to the office.

    She lanced the abscess, wrapped it up, and wrote us an Rx for a cream. She was clearly annoyed the whole time, I might add. To the point that I felt compelled to say, “I hope my husband wasn’t rude to you on the phone.” She replied, “Well, it was obvious that he was really ‘concerned’. The abscess is definitely bigger than he described, by the way. The reason I wanted you to go to the ER is so the baby could have had pain medicine for the procedure. We aren’t equipped for that at the office.”

    What? The baby cried for like 5 seconds after she squeezed the gunk out of his finger. He stopped before I could even get him on the boob. So for that, a 3 minute, really easy, not particularly painful procedure, she would have had us spend half the day at the ER with all the really sick (well, maybe not) people.

    So I mentioned that this was a learning experience. I trust our pediatrician implicitly, but I learned to question and maybe push back a little bit if one of the other Doctors in the practice is telling me something that seems a little overreact-y.

  81. Megan A June 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    this is an interesting topic to me because I often feel like I’m being judged both ways – staff at the hospital/dr looking at me like I’m just some overreacting parent, or other parents thinking that I’m not making a big enough deal out of things. I just don’t know where you draw the line between – what was good enough for us and what ‘should’ be better for them?

    My daughter hurt her foot last week. She cried for about an hour, which is unlike her. My husband called his uncle, who is a foot doctor, and he suggested we take her to the ER. I thought they were overreacting, but relented because we were going on vacation the next day. Well, it turns out that she has a TINY fracture. This resulted in a splint, followed by a cast, and now a walking boot which she has to keep on for 3 weeks. (She probably would have had the cast on for 3 weeks except that they didn’t want her to fly with it)

    Obviously I was wrong and there actually IS something wrong, But here’s the thing – I am pretty sure that I did the same thing growing up at least once or twice, and my parents never took me in. Now I get pain in that part of my foot now and then if I step on it wrong, but otherwise it’s ok.

    So I guess it’s kinda like the scar thing, only it’s a scar on the inside. But I suspect that MANY more people would argue for casting her so that her bones definitely heal properly, than they would for worrying about a scar. BUT it was good enough for me…

  82. Lola June 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I might add, this trend has cost me a quarrell with ER doctors when I took my really sick kid there (pneumonia, but by then it kind of looked like meningitis). They had the nerve to ask “How can you bring her here in THIS state!” (after two previous checks by other pediatricians, BTW)
    “Well, she’s sick, you see! I wasn’t aware we should bring her in a healthy state to the ER!”

  83. Manisha June 1, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    I go through this all the time at our weekly gathering at the local park. When my daughter falls, I snuggle her and talk about brushing it off, then send her off to play. For most other kids, the play date ends with a fall. I am constantly being told that my daughter needs attention such “it looks like she want to swing” or “she’s whining a bit, maybe you should see if she is OK.” I know my daughter’s distress cry so I don’t respond to every whine and I know that she is good at telling me what she wants. And since I don’t want to be the Mama that follows her child all over the playground, I tend to leave her alone. Bad Mama? Maybe in some people’s eyes, but for us it works well.

  84. CrazyCatLady June 2, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Manisha, I do the same as you. But as you say, the days of “let mommy give it a kiss and make it better” seem to be gone. We certainly have one friend whose day is totally disrupted by things that my kids would brush off and keep going.

    I have gotten the evil eye for not going to my daughter when she twisted her ankle when she was 4. Some older girls she was with mommied her, gave her some candy, she got up and continued playing while I watched. Then she “fell” again, and started crying. I knew it was fake. A mom sitting with me asked me if I was going to go to her. I said no, she isn’t hurt. Mom got ticked and moved away. Sure enough, the older girls offered candy, my daughter got up and started running. (I did have a talk with her after about how that was not nice.) The mom came over and sheepishly said “I guess you were right.”

    I learned when I was teaching preschool if the adult does not make things into a big deal, neither will the kid. It has made things much easier for me when I did have true emergencies (a gash needing 10 stitches, and an asthma attack when we had swine flu.) My kids were calmer, which helped them to get the treatment that they needed. Freaking out, squirming kids (which we have had for some shots) does not make anything easier for anyone, and may add to the bill if they have to bring in extra staff to hold down kids.

  85. Christina June 2, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    We reserve the ER for injuries clearly requiring stitches and broken bones. Otherwise we go to our pediatrician, who has learned through experience that when I call, it’s serious (staph, RSV, scarlet fever, ear infections). Everything else we pretty much deal with ourselves. I believe that is why my kids (nearly 5 now) have a healthy attitude toward minor injuries and illnesses and no issues going to the doctor. The doctor gives them annual vaccines (and lollipops), and makes them feel better when they are miserably sick. The ER puts them back together when they’ve damaged themselves beyond mom’s ability to fix it.

    Happily, this attitude seems to be contagious. My SIL has gone from freaking out over every bump, fall and scrape to letting her 8 year old daughter climb trees and ride a bike.

  86. Kristi Blue June 2, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    My children think that the only reason you go to the doctor is for yearly sports physicals and vaccinations. I’ve been blessed with five extremely healthy children, but two months ago, the 12 year old was hospitalized for 17 days with MRSA. What started out as a sore heel turned into a life threatening condition in a matter of hours. When Infectious Disease was getting a medical history, the doctor was astounded when I pointed out that the first antibiotic she’d ever had was the one they’d started her on in the ER the day before. I couldn’t stop thinking that my super healthy kid had her first antibiotic, all because of a problem created by doctors over prescibing antibiotics to placate over reactive parents who don’t understand that sometimes kids get sick and the best course of treatment is no treatment but rest and fluids and time.

  87. Kate June 2, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    I agree that our culture’s propensity for Worst First Thinking is a real problem when it comes to distinguishing between little shake-offable bumps, minor medical situations and serious injuries/illnesses. I wonder how these kids, who are hauled off to the emergency room for every little scrape, will ever be able to play sports, or dance, or do any kind of physical activity at all, which requires some physical toughness. And how will they develop the wherewithal to take stock and cope in an accident?

  88. Jenne June 2, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    *snort* I have a toddler son. He made his first ER visit at 6 months, when he fell off the bed onto a hardwood floor after learning to crawl. The pediatricians weren’t in yet, and nurse at the pediatrician said that for someone that young, they usually do a CT scan, so you might as well take him right to the ER. Of course I was freaked out, and he had a huge lump on his head, but was calm and cheerful by the time we got to the ER. We opted to do the CT scan anyway because I knew I would never be able to go into work and leave him at daycare if I hadn’t had them check it out. The doctor later told me that if I see a major goosegg after a head bump, it’s probably the best sign– it means the blood is on the OUTSIDE of the skull!

    However, he hasn’t needed an ER visit since, which surprises me– my younger brothers never went more than 6 months without SOMETHING major enough to get my mom to the ER (and this is a woman who put off having my broken finger seen to for 12 hours until it was literally too swollen to bend…) I have made some phone calls to the pediatrician group answering service at 2 am once or two am, though, and if my son was off color for more than a few days I would make an appointment with the doctor after listening to his daycare provider’s concerns.

    I suspect it’s harder with girl toddlers, as we mothers of active boys seem to all commiserate with each other about how you can tell kids who are learning to walk, etc. from their battle scars. Commiserating really helps, I find. Having grown up with younger sibs probably helps too.

    Now, my stepdaughter’s mom was a youngest sib and had no younger cousins, so when the 18 month old sneaked out of her bedroom and fell down (an undetermined number of) stairs, she immobilized the girl and called an ambulance. Kid was asking for toys by the time she got on the gurney, while the paramedics said, “Ma’am, you might want to put on your pants before we leave for the hospital…” Kid was fine. Dad was afraid CPS would come for them, though somewhere there’s probably a record that says, “Child fine, Parent hysterical”.

    And yet six months later, they ignored their Carbon Monoxide induced symptoms until the cat started throwing up and the vet tech they called heard about everyone’s symptoms and said “Get out of the House!” thus saving their lives.

  89. Jenne June 2, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    Following up, like I hadn’t written enough: Have you noticed that injuries that DO merit an ER visit– stitches on weekends, broken bones, etc– seem to be spoken of as if they were, well, fatal? Breaking an arm is somehow a terrible fate.

  90. ifsogirl June 2, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    Someone mentioned that wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call the ER and check if an injury needs medical attention. I live in British Columbia Canada and here we have the nurse’s hotline. My 4y/o daughter swallowed a coin a few months back. She started screaming and crying saying it hurt. So I got her calmed down and called the hotline. They said as long as she was breathing fine everything was ok but if it still hurt or she started having issues breathing call again or take her to a clinic. I was told me to give her something soft to eat that would help push it further down and then oh joy search for it to make sure it passed.

    I gave her a cookie, which of course calmed her down and a few minutes later she said she felt much better and went back to playing. We never did find the coin, but a week later we were headed to the Dr’s anyway so I asked about it, there were no symptoms of a blockage so no problem. Think of all the trauma and time saved by not taking her to the ER.

  91. Laura (@kyrielle) June 2, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    …I can’t imagine taking my child to the ER for that. I have twice taken my youngest to the ER, one of which in retrospect I shouldn’t have, but he was *very* young and not eating well, with the corresponding worries about dehydration. He was fine.

    The second time, I tripped and fell full length while carrying him and landed on top of him – on the nice hard kitchen floor. He was fine, but I am still glad I got him checked out after that. (Two days later, it was clear why he was fine – baby was on my left shoulder, I had a massive set of bruises down my right side….)

  92. mamataney June 2, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    We have two young sons, the older of which at age 8 has already had the honor of having stitches on his head three separate times and a cut on his nose “glued” shut.
    The first cut was caused by a headfirst fall at the age 2 1/2 into one of our radiators. I didn’t think they were sharp enough to cut but apparently anything is if you hit it hard enough. We called the ambulance and got the ride to the ER where we then waited 2 HOURS in the room to see the doc and get him stitched up. In the meantime he had forgotten he was injured with a gape in his head and was trying to hang off of the bed upside down and everything else a 2 1/2 year old likes to get into.
    The second time was just less than 6 months later when he slipped on his pants’ leg and face planted into the window sill. While in the ER I had the following conversation with the doc:

    Me: Obviously when he falls he does face plants. What would you recommend I keep on hand at home in the medicine cabinet to help bandage him up.
    ER Doc: Nothing. You MUST bring him to the ER everytime!

    Luckily my husband’s grandfather was a pediatrician. I called him when we got home and he gave me a list of items to keep on hand. He also helped teach and guide me as to what is a “Call the ambulance” situatation, what can be waited out for a bit, what to look for and so on. He gave me courage as a mother that the other doctors steadfastly refused and discouraged.

    I’ve had other doctors criticize me for using websites like Mayo Clinic and Web MD. Around here they absolutely detest it when you do stuff like that (I say around here in hopes that elsewhere they encourage it).

    We no longer can call the doctor and say “I/we/kid has ____, can you call something in?” Heck, I can barely get a doctor to call me back, they mostly refuse to speak with patients on the phone and refer me to nurses who too often don’t know jack.

    My husband’s grandfather (the pediatrician) just passed away. I’ve heard so many stories of him making house calls, of patients calling the house, and of what a good man he was. How he and the other doctors (dentists, etc – all different fields) would share notes and records regarding patients so that everyone was kept up to date. His generation is referred to as “the greatest generation” and I can see why that title was earned.

  93. Jen Connelly June 2, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    @Megan A
    I had that same thing happen to me when I was a kid. I was 4 and stupidly jumped off my cousin’s upper bunk (we had been doing that all day and landing on these thick foam mats but this time I missed the mat). I screamed for awhile until my brother finally had to go get my mom (who was in the next room and refused to come running over every little cry–I guess I was a whiner, lol). Finally she came and by then I was just pouting but it hurt to much to put weight on my foot.

    Unfortunately we were out of town (4 hours from home) and stuck on a farm in the middle of no where in the middle of a snow storm. My mom thought the ankle was just sprained and I spent the next week sitting on the couch whining because I was bored and my foot hurt if I didn’t keep it a certain way. No one was catering to me, I hopped around on 1 foot if I needed something. After that week my mom realized that it wasn’t getting better and decided it was time to wrap up our visit.

    We got home and my dad took one look at the swelling and took me to my mom’s foot doctor. An x-ray later and it was confirmed that I had a hairline fracture. They were worried it was right on the growth plate and it could stunt the growth of my leg. They casted me up and I went home where I learned to zoom around the house on crutches. I actually wore my first cast off and they had to remove it early because the lining was completely gone. I had sores all over my leg from the plaster rubbing.

    Still, there was no ER visit. No one got in trouble for not getting me to treatment quicker. Life went on and I learned I have crappy ankles. I’ve fractured each one a few times each and sprained them so bad I couldn’t walk on them for weeks.

    My brother has the same problem. He fractured his ankle the first time at 8 playing in the yard. He continued to go to school and do his normal stuff for a week without a doctor visit until he finally confessed to my mom that it was still hurting. A lot. Back to the foot doctor for a cast.

  94. Jen June 2, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    I can count the number of times I was in the ER in 30 years on (almost) 1 hand. 3 trips as a very small child for concussions. I was severely clumsy, and had 3 class 3 concussions before I was 5. Then there was the dog bite, the got 14 stitches under my left eye and 5 on the right corner of my mouth. I was 8. Next was another dog bite at about 11. Finally was a cut on my right ring finger when I was 17. 5 stitches. I haven’t been to the ER again for 13 years.

    I’m also one of those people who like to share war stories and show scars. I’ve got some great ones, and other than the dog bite on the face and the finger at 17 (I still have nerve damage in the finger which aches in damp weather), none of my stories end with an ER visit. Heck, most of them don’t end with a doctor’s visit, unless a tetanus booster was required.

    I was on first name basis with the nice people in our local radiology department, though. I have had so many sprained ankles I can’t count them. I think the total is 6 sprains to the right ankle and 4 to the left. All of them happened between when I was 14 and 18. Invariably, I’d come home from dance class with an injury, mom would call our PCP the next day and get an order to go get an x-ray to make sure it wasn’t broken, and I’d move on. I spent a lot of time in high school on crutches…

    My daughter has yet to have an ER visit, although I’ve had the people looking at me like I’m crazy because my 3 year old has a cut/ scrape/ black eye/ bruise and I haven’t even called the doctor. Seriously, people, it’s no big deal.

  95. JLH June 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Two opposing ER stories to illustrate both the overreaction of many parents, and the reason ERs are tied up with waits of several hours.

    Story 1: When my eldest was 11 months old, we had a little puppy. Daughter was crawling around the (empty) dining room while I was in the kitchen. Puppy had, unbeknownst to me, pooped in the corner of the dining room. Daughter had found said poop and when I noticed her, she was gleefully eating it!!! I was exasperated but laughing as I washed her face and hands and cleaned up the dining room. However, in telling my friends about the incident, one looked horrified and said, “Oh my God, did you take her to the ER?” (Um, no.)

    Story 2: Being Australian, I am used to being able to visit the pharmacist for antibiotic eye drops to treat conjunctivitis. I was living in the US when my daughter was young, and she developed conjunctivitis while we were holidaying in San Francisco. A trip to the pharmacy revealed nothing useful in the way of OTC treatments. It was a Sunday, and we were in a strange city. The only thing I could think of to do was visit the ER so I could get something to treat her. Which I did. Cost to my insurance company? $600! For a treatment that would have cost me about $15 in Australia, not to mention the tying up of the time of ER staff.

  96. Heila June 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Goodness… Last year my daughter and my father in law between them managed to slam a car door on her big toe, which ended up really swollen, blue and sore. She had to miss one night of school concert because she couldn’t dance. We didn’t take her to the doctor. We applied ice, let her go to school in comfy shoes instead of school shoes (uniforms here in South Africa), and by the next night she was fine to dance again. If by the second day things had not improved we would probably have gone to the doctor, not the ER. Our health insurance would have paid for either visit, plus X-rays, but that’s not the point. I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking she is so helpless she needs a professional for every little physical (or psychological) knock she gets in life.

  97. Heila June 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    When my daughter was 2 she broke her arm at daycare. She never cried, never complained, and it was only when my husband noticed the next morning that she wasn’t using that arm that he realised something was wrong.

  98. bgardner June 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    I’ve been on both sides of this – my daughter was born with a strawberry hemangioma under her left arm, which we were repeatedly assured was nothing and would never pose a problem. One day it changed color from bright red to dark purple. I called the pediatrician who told me don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it. Finally I insisted on bringing my daughter in and when the unworried doctor looked at it, she said – get this – ‘Why didn’t you tell me about this over the phone? She has an infection and needs antiobiotics.’ I let her have it. I was never one to be a hysterical parent, but when I knew something was wrong, I knew something was wrong. The doctor ended up apologizing for not listening to what I was telling her.

    On the flip side, my daughter also fell off her new swing when she was four, split open her bottom lip. We rushed her to the ER where they had a pediatric dentist put a single stitch in the cut – it took two orderlies and a lead blanket to hold her down for this. At the follow up visit with her pediatrician, he told us the cut would have probably healed overnight without a stitch since small mouth wounds like that usually close up very quickly.

    What did I learn? Doctors don’t know everything. And doctors in the ER know even less. Trust your instincts.

  99. skl1 June 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    “Doctors in the ER know even less.” I agree.

    It’s also unnecessarily scary in there. When my kid (then 3.5) went in there for a busted head, (after 5 hours of waiting!) they gave her stuff so she would not feel the stitches. But then they swaddled her and had like 4 people holding her down. She freaked out. This is a child who never did more than wince while getting a shot or blood test at the doc’s office. When she had the stitches removed with nothing to numb the area, she was so calm that the doctor commented on it. She would have been fine having those stitches if the ER staff didn’t act like they were about to do something horrific.

  100. Heila June 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    “Doctors in the ER know even less.” I also agree. At our local ER they are really not good with kids and the few times we needed a doc urgently after hours (usually due to dehydration because of gastro) we rather called the paed on duty at our paed practice. The time she decided to drop a seed into her one ear that partially works (other one is completely deaf), we called the ENT on duty.

  101. Heila June 3, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    What is Urgent Care?

  102. certifiblyinsane June 3, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    I suffer from the “wait and see and when does not recover it’s all my fault”guilt. I kept ignoring my daughter’s complaint of knee pain for two months as there was no external sign of injury and she had not fallen or banged it at the time the pain started. I thought it was growing pains. Finally took her to the doctor and found out it was actually serious. She now has to see a physiotherapist and is not allowed to run/jump/or do stairs for a month. Vigorous activity makes the injury worse. Typically, I wait too long to bring my children in to the doctor. I have actually had a dr get after me for it. After missing a strep throat diagnosis and been yelled at for it, I tell all my friends to bring their kids in. There really doesn’t seem to be a happy compromise when it comes to the ER.

  103. Kimberly June 3, 2012 at 5:03 am #

    When our son was learning to walk, he fell face-first into a wall and his bottom front teeth went through his face, right below the bottom of his lower lip. Two perfect little holes. After checking to be sure he hadn’t knocked his teeth out/loose, we cleaned him up and gave him some ice chips. It didn’t even scar. No ER visit for that one, and my husband and I joked that we could turn him into a little rocker if we put a ring in his lip.

    Shortly after that, our daughter tripped my husband while he was carrying our son to his bed for a nap. Hubby fell forward with Gabe in his arms. Josh broke his elbow, and Gabe’s face immediately started two bruise and swell. That time, we did hurry to the ER. After the initial screaming, he got really tired and was hard to wake. I wasn’t sure if it was because he was already tired (he HAD been headed for a nap), because he’d spent 20 minutes screaming his head off in significant pain, or because he might have a concussion. But I wasn’t ready to take chances with that one. Turns out he didn’t have a concussion, but I’m glad we went. Josh got his arm fixed up while we were there, so we didn’t have to make an extra trip. And Gabe had one of the nastiest-looking black eyes I’ve ever seen for several weeks after that.

  104. pentamom June 3, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    “What is Urgent Care?”

    In many cities in the U.S., there are now clinics you can go to without an appointment for “minor emergencies” — sudden minor illnesses (e.g. the weekend ear infection or suspected strep), cuts needing stitches, small burns, things like that. They’re referred to as Urgent Care clinics. Some are connected with local hospitals, others are independent businesses. They also frequently will do required physicals for school or employment or whatever. You generally have to pay upfront and then seek reimbursement from insurance.

    The downside is that some insurances will not pay anything for such visits unless authorized by a call to your doctor, who’s just as likely to tell you to go to the ER (unless they are affiliated with a hospital that runs an Urgent Care.)

  105. Monica Jones (@Dirty_Hooker) June 3, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    I’ve only ever been to the emergency room twice: once when I was 2 and I swallowed one of my sister’s quaaludes, and again 30 years later when the same sister bashed my ahead against the wall and tried to drag me down the stairs in a fit of rage. My mother took me to the doctor plenty of times when I was sick, but only if I had a high fever or what she thought was an ear infection. But then, I was one of her foster kids, so social services was watching her all the time.

    I can’t imagine taking a kid to the hospital for every bump and bruise and cold. I know when I’m sick, the last thing I want to do is cart my happy ass out of bed and into a waiting room full of sick people.

    For people who take their kids to the hospital for every little thing: Be aware that hospitals are full of sick people. Taking your kid there for a simple cut could expose her to some pretty awful germs. Better safe than sorry doesn’t work here.

  106. Library Diva June 4, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    I couldn’t get past “Because she’s a girl…” It brought back a long-ago memory of a male college friend with a facial scar that he got in a childhood accident, just a mundane one involving a bike or a skateboard or a playground stunt gone wrong or something. But he told me that he’d found out it would have been stitched up differently and he would have been offered plastic surgery had he been female. At the time, I was incredulous. I’m still incredulous of the mentality of OP’s friends.

    Two is much too young to have a “chicks dig scars” mentality. You have no idea whether that will match your son’s personality at all, or even whether it will be chicks, not dudes, that he wants to attract when he’s older.

  107. gondolaqueen June 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Love it. I linked back here from my own post about acceptable risk.


    Hope it’s okay that I cited back to you. And THANK YOU for writing this blog.

  108. carol June 5, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    My daughter’s twelve and I don’t think I’ve ever made the ER trip with her. Kids get hurt, they get bumps, bruises, and even, heaven forbid, scars.

  109. EricS June 5, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    I think it’s just most parents are uneducated when it comes to first aid and assessing “injuries”. Which, IMO, should be something all parents should know. My whole family has taken CPR and First Aid courses. We have First Aid apps on our phones. And we even teach the little ones basic First Aid, and yes, they know how to wash, apply Polysporin, and bandage their own cuts and scrapes. A little messy and awkward, but I’m sure they know more than most adults (who’s first reaction to scrape is to go to the ER). lol

  110. Goober June 5, 2012 at 1:45 am #

    I haven’t seen a picture of the kid in question, so I don’t know for sure whether the emergency room was in order or not. Was it scrapes alone? The emergency room couldn’t have done a damn thing, even IF facial scarring is a fear – you can’t suture a scrape, folks. If a scrape is going to scar, it is going to scar, emergency room or not.

    If, however, there was massive bruising or actual suturable lacerations, there is nothing “anti-freerange” about taking the kid to the doctor to get stitches or get checked for concussion. Free-range does not mean neglectful parents that don’t get medical attention when it is needed. i took my 15 month in for a 103.5 temperature the other day – Not a worry wart helicopter parent, just a father that realizes that a fever that high needs to get medical attention. It is really that simple.

    That being said, it occurs to me that the comments about “this is why the expense of healthcare is getting so high, because people rush to the emergency room for every scrape” don’t take into account that healthcare is the only service we use in which we expect the costs of using it to go up the more we use it. Any other service’s prices go down with more use – it is basic supply and demand. It costs X amount to staff an emergency room for one night. If there are 2 calls in that night, the hospital has to spread their costs over two calls. If there are 100, the cost of each e-room call should go down, right? Why is it that we accept that healthcare is somehow different from every other service on Earth? To me, using the e-room MORE should lower the cost of e-room visits overall.

    Think about that a little bit, and consider why we’ve come to accept the opposite of reality as being the norm…

  111. Goober June 5, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    Reply to Jessie M. – Here in America, we don’t expect our neighbors to pay for our kid’s ski accidents (yet). We buy insurance, and the cost of a decent healthcare plan here is actually less than the amount you pay in your taxes to fund the healthcare of everyone else around you. Yeah, we may end up footing a couple hundred dollars in deductibles and co pays per visit, but unless a person is totally uninsured, we aren’t really paying a whole lot more than you guys over there are, it’s just that your costs are hidden.

    Couple that to the fact that our semi-private healthcare markets provide much better service than your Department of Motor Vehicles style healthcare over there, and most of us are pretty okay with paying a bit more for better care.

    The problems in US healthcare that you’ve read about more or less center around the uninsured. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t that many folks here that CAN’T get insurance of some sort, it is mostly folks who choose for whatever reason to not get the government-subsidized healthcare that is available in most states for low-income or jobless people. In my State, for instance, all children are insured. Period. It’s just that some parents are too uninformed (or lazy? I don’t really know what other explanation there is) to fill out the forms to get that insurance. In a nation of 300 million people, there are, as of most recent estimate, about 3 million uninsured people out there. That is a problem that we need to solve, but it surely isn’t the bankruptcy-inducing panic that the media would have you believe it is.

    I pay my insurance premiums every month, about $650 for my family, and my out-of-pocket expenses are capped at $2,500 per year. I’ll bet if you were able to determine how much you paid for your healthcare via taxes, it would be a very similar number.

  112. Donna June 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Goober – Actually we pay for many of our neighbor’s kid’s accidents. In addition to your premiums and co-pays, your tax dollars go to Medicaid, Medicare, health clinics, the government portion of subsidized insurance, etc. So unless your premiums, copays and taxes contributions attributed to other people’s medical care are all less than a Canadian’s healthcare taxes, the Canadians are still financially better off.

  113. Taradlion June 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    Starting at age 12, I have been I have been trained in first aid, as a lifeguard, swim instructor, first aid instructor, EMT. Though mon of my certifications are current, knowledge is still there. I consider myself a free range parent, and, not unlike the parents who consider themselves free range and defend their use of leashes and juice box holders, I differ from Lenore in that I almost always have a first aid kit and wet wipes (and Purell for subway). I let my kids play and get hurt but like to be prepared sothat not every cut or splinter is a crisis : deal with it and move on.

    My pediatrician considers me an under reactor. My son never runs a fever below 104. He says if I call, he expects I have a severed finger on ice and am wondering if I can wait and see how it looks in the morning. We’ve been for strep. Waited out all but one (horrendous) ear inection. ER trips have been limited to ingesting Grampa’s blood pressure Ned’s (I was in a different state when that happened) and rapid onset of virtigo and lethargy with vomiting.

    Im my current job I work with medically fragile kids. Kids that are truly fragile. I seriously don’t get when parents of typically developing generally healthy kids treat every minor injury and childhood illness as something that could be life threatening. Get to know your kid. Not every kid with a high fever needs medical attention. Not every kid that complains is dying. Is it atypical or out of character for your kid?

  114. pentamom June 6, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    “Any other service’s prices go down with more use – it is basic supply and demand. ”

    No, that’s the opposite of supply and demand. If demand goes up, costs go up, until supply increases. The long lines in the ERs indicate that the supply is not close to reaching the point where the costs will decrease.

  115. Sarah June 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    As a Canadian, we don’t pay “Healthcare taxes”. We just pay ‘taxes’. The government divvies it up according to a formula of usage/ population.

    I can go to my doctor any time, for any reason (very little is not covered by a standard visit), or to the ER if I choose to wait 6 hours.

    But, the downside of that is that I do pay higher taxes. And no, I don’t notice them coming off my check (since I never had that money, I don’t miss it). I don’t mind paying a higher tax rate to know that I can access medical assistance, or Employment insurance, full year maternity leave or any of the other uses my money is put to.

    I like our system. I think free medical assistance should be considered a basic human right, like any other chartered right. Just my two cents.

  116. Sarah June 8, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    And I just want to point out that paying $650/ month/ family is completely unreasonable for most of us out there. The $121 federal taxes I paid off my paycheck is all the payment I need to make towards taxes, healthcare, education, public works. There are no ‘hidden’ fees- I have coverage from my insurance to pay my prescription and my dental. And my premium is 100/ family member who uses the service. That’s unbeatable.

  117. Becky June 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    The options aren’t “ER or nothing.” How about calling an insurance nurse hotline, or your doctor’s after hours number for advice?

  118. Maegan July 5, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    My kids are 8.5 & 4.5…they both have had ’emergency’ trips…but we tend to utilize local urgent cares. Most of them can still do an X-ray & diagnostics, but there’s less of a wait & they’re right across the street from our favorite pharmacy! (And actually I used them a lot in the past, for a while I got frequent UTIs and all I really had to do was show up & go, “Yeah, I think I have another…” and they would do a quick test & the doc would give me an RX for antibiotics…the whole thing took about 10-15 minutes & I didn’t have to see the doc & do the whole interview process.)

    Medical stuff can be hard to decide on. For those parents who have “never” taken a kid to the ER…be grateful. You’re not parenting any better or smarter than those of us who HAVE had to visit the ER…you just got luckier.

    I once suspected my oldest child of swallowing a straight pin when she was a toddler. We used the urgent care…and I was glad to have my mind put at east. (And we did have insurance…so for the cost of my $20 deductible…it was worth it.) Except for the odd ear infection or her well visits, she has not since needed emergency care.

    My youngest child…Oy. We’ve called poison control several times (we put things up/away, but she gets in to the weirdest stuff…she chugged gross old vase water for crying out loud!). Once after I poured hot chocolate (at a park, not at home) and told her not to touch it, but to wait for it to cool…she grabbed the cup & started to pull it towards her. She spilled it down the front of her & I immediately sat her in a water fountain & tried to rinse her off (it was about 45 degrees outside, I’d poured boiling water in to the thermos over an hour before pouring it in to the cups…and assumed it would be able to cool before we drank it). Her skin started to peel off. We spent 6 hours in the ER (I failed several times to reach my husband in Afghanistan…and when I finally did the connection was so bad I don’t think he actually heard what happened)…they questioned my older child to see if I had done it ON PURPOSE…and then sent CPS to talk to us, as well as having the local police check on us later. We had to drive to a city 90 miles away to get ‘proper’ burn care several times & my 3 year old was wrapped in gauze from just under her armpits to her thighs. She’s just my accident prone child…and the one who will always make me nervous…that will always manage to fall down the stairs or knock her head in to something. B/c of being prone to accidents, I do tend to err on the side of caution & take her to be seen. One incident doesn’t make you worry, but when you add it to a recent incident a week ago…and the one before that…You really start to worry about whether or not these injuries can “add up” to something terrible over time!

  119. Warren September 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    “Scars heal, glory fades and all we’re left with are the memories made. Pain hurts but only for a minute. Life is short so go on and live it.”


  1. Articles for a Rainy Weekend » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog - June 3, 2012

    […] Lenore Skenazy: Too Many Parents Unnecessarily Taking Kids to ER for Everyday Scratches, Bumps and Bruises […]