What You Need to Know in an Emergency

Print this page Bookmark and Share

Lea este articuloCould you remember important information about your child's health in an emergency?

Because that can be difficult, doctors suggest that parents keep a record of their kids' important health facts handy. This can help a medical team make a better, quicker diagnosis when time really counts.


Making a complete written or computer-based medical history for your kids is a good idea. Be sure their medical records have this information:


This is especially crucial if a child is allergic to any medications — penicillin, for example — or other antibiotics. Allergies to food, dye, or contrast material (dye or other substances used in tests like CAT scans) can come into play, too, so make note of anything your child has had a reaction to. Kids who've previously been hospitalized may have developed latex allergies.

This information can sometimes help emergency personnel find a cause for problems such as breathing difficulties and hives.


Your handy medical record should list any medications, including dosages, that your kids currently take. Some medications react badly when taken together, so the paramedics and doctors need this information before they give a child anything. You'll need to know when a child took the medication last and how much was taken.

Pre-Existing Illnesses

It is also extremely important for emergency personnel to be told of any health problems or illnesses your child has had. For example, does your child have diabetes, a bleeding disorder, or asthma? These pre-existing conditions can have a huge impact on which tests and treatments are administered in an emergency.

Consider having any child who has one of these chronic health problems or a known allergy wear an identifying tag on a necklace or bracelet. This kind of rapid notification can help doctors who are providing emergency care, especially if your child suddenly becomes ill at childcare, school, or a friend's house.

Don't forget to include the dates and surgeries a child has had — this can be important to the course of treatment in an emergency.


Keeping a clear and up-to-date record of your kids' immunization history can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing a problem in an emergency. If the doctor suspects that a child has an infection, for example, it may save much time to know that the child has had a particular immunization.

The staff at your doctor's office can help you compile information on your kids' immunization status.


There may not be time to weigh a child in an emergency. Having a recent weight handy can help doctors calculate dosages of any medication that may be needed.

Family History

Compiling a list of the family medical history is helpful information to also have on hand. Doctors usually ask if anyone else in the family has any medical problems because this can be an important piece of information when diagnosing and dealing with a current illness.

You might not be able to recall all this information in an emergency, so add it to your kids' medical records.

Information for Caregivers

If your child spends time in a childcare center or with a babysitter, you'll want to add other information to the medical record.

Besides instructions on how to reach you quickly, leave the name and phone number of your child's doctor. This will help the caretaker contact the office where your child's full medical history is on file — in case you can't be reached.

And if you'll be away from your kids for a longer time, such as for a vacation or business trip, and they stay with a sitter or family member other than your spouse, you'll want to leave a release allowing that person to authorize medical care.

In a life-threatening emergency a medical release won't be necessary. Medical personnel are authorized to do what they must to save the life of someone involved in an accident or other emergency.

It doesn't take long to compile a written or computer-based medical history for your kids. And doing so could mean saving critical minutes — when they count most!

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: November 2011

Related Resources

OrganizationNational Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.
OrganizationAmerican Red Cross The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and works to keep people safe every day. The website has information on first aid, safety, and more.
Web SitePoison Control Centers Use this toll-free number to reach any of the United States' 65 local poison control centers - (800) 222-1222 - or visit the website to find the poison control center nearest you.
Web SiteAmerican College of Emergency Physicians Promoting the highest quality emergency care, ACEP is the leading advocate for emergency physicians and their patients.
Web SiteEmergency Information Form for Children with Special Needs The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a form for all the vital information about the child's condition, and the doctors and other key contacts in case of an emergency. It's a good idea to post it near the phone, in the car, and in a prominent common area in the house.

Related Articles

Emergency Contact Sheet The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Fill out this sheet, and post it near each phone.
Choosing and Instructing a Babysitter One of your most important tasks as a parent is finding a qualified babysitter. Here are some essential tips on choosing and instructing a babysitter.
First Aid & Safety Center Boo-boos, bug bites, and broken bones - oh my! Here's your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about how to keep kids safe.
Is it a Medical Emergency? Should you head straight for the emergency room when your child is hurt? Different problems require different levels of care, and you have many options.
Getting Help: Know the Numbers The best time to prepare for an emergency is before one happens. Make sure your family knows emergency phone numbers - and make sure your kids know how to place a call for help.
Electronic Health Records By 2014, most U.S. health institutions will be digitally storing their patients' health information. Learn about electronic health records (EHRs) and what they'll mean for your family.
Going to the Emergency Room Knowing what to expect when you need to take your child to the emergency room can help make it a little less stressful.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com


Upcoming Events

Jingle Bell Run/Walk is a fun, festive event for the whole family! Put on your reindeer antlers and your running shoes and come join us for some holiday cheer.

Join us for a special night with an all-star line-up of country music acts performing to benefit the hospital!

Car Seat Safety Check

View full event calendarView more events...

Health and Safety

Your child's health and safety is our top priority


The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815