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Girl and doctor in ER

Top reasons kids visit the ER at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

By day, I’m a doctor in the Children’s Wisconsin emergency room. When I’m not at work, I do my most important job — being a dad. If my own kids need emergency care, I want them to be seen by doctors and nurses who focus 100 percent on kids, like we do here at Children’s Wisconsin. After all, kids are not little adults. Their bodies respond differently to injuries, illness and medical treatment.

Children’s Wisconsin’s emergency room saw more than 70,000 children last year — and our ER is specially designed for kids and teens. While nobody wants to have to bring their child to the ER, we’re proud to be the only emergency department in southeast Wisconsin with the special training it takes to understand and care for kids’ developing bodies.

Here are a few of the top reasons we see kids in our ER, and why a pediatric emergency room like Children’s Wisconsin’s is the best place for kids with these illnesses or injuries:

Upper respiratory infection and bronchiolitis

Upper respiratory infection can be caused by any number of viruses, including the flu. Bronchiolitis can be thought of as a “cold that settles in your lungs” — affecting the lower airways. While older kids more easily fight this off on their own, we often see babies under age 1 have difficulty with bronchiolitis. Smaller children have smaller airways and can have trouble breathing or feeding with the illness.

We can help even the youngest babies when they’re struggling with a respiratory illness. When kids need medicine, our doctors, nurses, pharmacists and entire care team have special pediatric training to make sure kids get the right doses of the right medicines.

Other viral infections

Stubborn fevers and gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can be scary for kids and parents, especially when kids get dehydrated because they can’t keep food or drinks down. Our staff, who see many more kids than the average adult hospital ER and is focused only on kids, will evaluate symptoms and treat, then decide if the child is well enough to go home or needs to be admitted to the hospital.

Because our doctors have seen more sick or injured children than providers in other emergency departments, we can spot and treat pediatric illnesses that adult doctors might miss.

Chronic medical problems

Ailments like asthma, sickle cell disease, diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease often need further treatment or management. Kids with these conditions may also come see us with a sickness that in a healthy child might not be cause for alarm, but might signify more serious illness in a child with chronic disease.

Because we’re experts at treating children with chronic or severe health problems, our doctors are specially trained to recognize kid-specific clues other doctors might miss. That means we can find answers sooner and start treatment faster. We also work with the child’s specialty doctor to make sure the child is treated the right way.

Sprains, breaks and cuts

Although these injuries are common all year, in summer they are a greater proportion of our ER traffic since more kids are out biking, skateboarding and playing. If we determine that a CT scan or X-ray is necessary, we make sure your child receives the smallest dose of radiation possible for the test that is needed.

Kids can get a cast for a broken bone anywhere, but the specialists at Children’s Wisconsin also know to look for fractures in growth plates, which sit at the ends of their bones. If growth plates don’t heal properly, it can lead to long-tern problems. Our specialists will manage repairs the right way for your growing child.

Like you, I hope my children won’t need emergency care — but if they do, I’ll bring them to the place I know cares for 100 percent kids, all the time.