When to Call 911: First Aid Essentials for Parents

Knowing When to Call 911

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One of the most common questions I get from parents is, ‘ok, all this information is great, but how do I know when I should call 911?’ I get it. Figuring out when your child’s symptoms are severe enough to warrant a call to 911 can be daunting; there’s a fine line between needing to go to the emergency room and needing an ambulance ride to get there. By the end of this post, I hope you’ll have a solid grasp on these 3 reasons to call 911.

There’s a First Aid Essentials cheat sheet in the toolkit grab yours today!

Calling 911 might not sound like a first aid skill, but knowing when to get help is essential. When your kids need help now, you can’t hesitate.

Before we get started, I want to point out, this list is not all-encompassing. There are plenty of reasons to call 911 that are not on this list.

When trying to decide whether or not to call 911 or go to the emergency room, listen to your gut. If your gut says that your child needs to go to the emergency room…. Then go to the emergency room.

A lot of folks have a list of conditions (heart attack, stroke, etc.) for when to call 911, and that’s great. But there’s a danger there if you don’t know the symptoms of the condition.

It’s better to be able to recognize an emergency- regardless of what the child is complaining about. With these 3 reasons to call 911, we’re going to walk through some different signs and symptoms that can indicate an emergency.

3 Reasons to Call 911

Symptoms indicating the brain is involved

Medical conditions that cause changes in brain function should always be treated as emergencies. If the noggin is broken, everything else will eventually break down.

Complaints that may indicate a problem with the brain come on FAST:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Vision loss on one or both sides of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Trouble speaking
  • Severe headache
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting or passing out)
  • Seizures

Figuring out when your child’s symptoms are severe enough to warrant a call to 911 can be daunting. Learn the reasons to call 911!

Trouble Breathing

We’ve all been short of breath from exercise, but when that feeling comes without any reason in a child, it is scary.

Sometimes parents don’t recognize breathing emergencies in kids. Choking is not always called into 911. Often parents can handle this on their own, but, unfortunately, once a choking patient has become unconscious, very little oxygen is left in the bloodstream, and it becomes a medical emergency.

There are plenty of other causes of shortness of breath in kids. Severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, pneumonia, asthma, and pneumothorax are all examples of things that can lead to trouble breathing.

If your child suddenly is having a hard time breathing call 911. You may notice that their neck looks strained, or that their breathing sounds become really labored. Eventually, their lips may even turn blue. Don’t wait, call 911.

Severe Bleeding

A little bleeding is no big deal, but spurting blood can be life-threatening- and kids are notorious for little accidents that cause a lot of bleeding.

The good news is that it’s not hard to control bleeding. Pressure and elevation are enough to stop most cuts from oozing blood. If pressure alone doesn’t stop the bleeding, call 911. If blood is shooting out in spurts, call 911. If the blood seems to ‘pulse’ with every heartbeat, call 911.

There’s a First Aid Essentials cheat sheet in the toolkit grab yours today!

When in Doubt, Call 911

Some emergencies are common sense, the baby stopped breathing, the toddler’s leg is pointing a direction it shouldn’t. But other emergencies aren’t as clear, and there’s no way to cover all of the reasons to call 911. That would get really long, and probably really annoying.

Emergency medical professionals don’t expect parents to know every emergency or non-emergency situation. Their job is to respond and help you when you need it. If something happens to a child and you’re not sure what to do or if a scary situation presents itself, don’t hesitate to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

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