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What you need to know in an emergency

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Imagine this: your child has just been involved in an emergency. You call 911. The ambulance pulls up to your house, sirens blaring. The paramedics rush in and begin asking you questions as they work to stabilize your child. They want to know what happened, but they also ask questions about your child's medical history. It's hard to think clearly. You begin to answer and then end up saying, "I don't remember. I don't know." Would you be able to recall vital information about your child's health in the event of an emergency? Many doctors suggest that parents keep a record of their children's important health facts handy. This can often help the medical team make a better and more rapid diagnosis of a problem at a time when time really counts.

Pre-existing illnesses
Height and weight
Blood type
Physician information

The most important information to know is the child's allergies. This is especially crucial if the child is allergic to any medications — penicillin, for example — or other antibiotics. Food allergies can come into play, too, so make note of those as well. Children who have been hospitalized in the past may have developed latex allergies. Often this information can help emergency personnel find a cause for problems such as seizures or breathing difficulties.

Keep a list of any medications, including their dosages, that your child is currently taking. Some medications can cause an adverse reaction when they are taken together, so the paramedics and doctors need this information BEFORE they give your child anything. You'll need to know when the child took the medication last and how much was taken.

Pre-existing illnesses
It is also important to tell emergency personnel about any health problems or illnesses your child has had. For example, does your child have diabetes or asthma? These pre-existing conditions can have a tremendous impact on the type of tests and treatment administered in an emergency. Cildren with these kinds of chronic health problems should me kind of identifying tag on a necklace or bracelet. Often, this kind of rapid notification about an illness can help doctors save the life of the child. This is especially true if your child suddenly becomes ill at day care, school or a friend's house. Don't forget to keep the dates and types of operations a child may have undergone in the past. This may prove to be important to the course of treatment following an emergency.

Keeping a clear and up-to-date record of a child's immunizations can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing a problem in an emergency. The staff at your child's doctor's office can help you compile information on your child's immunization status. Also, be sure to include information about any reaction that your child has had following an immunization. High fever, severe discomfort and seizures should be noted in your records and discussed with your doctor.

Height and weight
Height and weight information can help doctors more accurately calculate any dosages of medication needed. Since this information changes rapidly for kids, record the most current information and make note of any recent growth spurts.

Blood type
While you might consider it crucial to know your child's blood type, it is not necessary health information. In a true emergency, patients are given universal donor blood, type O negative, via transfusion. When your child is brought to a hospital, the staff will test for blood type, even if you have that information on hand.

Physician information
Keep a record of your child's primary care provider's name and telephone number handy, as well as the contact information of any specialist he or she may see on a regular basis. It may be necessary to contact these physicians for guidance on your child's care during an emergency. It doesn't take much to compile a written medical history for your child. And it could mean saving critical minutes — when they count most.