When You Should Call the Doctor or Dial 911



Caring for a sick child is one of the most worrisome tasks of parenthood. Many parents wonder, “How do I know when to call the pediatric care provider?”

A good rule of thumb, and one I share with parents of my patients in the Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles—as a parent you know your child best, if you have questions or concerns call your doctor’s office. Nurses can discuss your child’s symptoms and help you figure out what the next step should be. When you call, sometimes it is hard to communicate how sick your child is. If that’s the case, the staff may ask that you bring your child to see their pediatric care provider.

Information about Your Child’s Health

Before you call your child’s pediatric provider’s office, be prepared to have the following information available about your child’s health:

  • Your child’s temperature and the last time you took it.
  • Your child’s past medical problems. For example, asthma, seizures and any allergies to drugs
  • Your child’s immunization records. This record can be helpful if your child has an injury that may require a tetanus booster.
  • Phone number of your pharmacy in case the provider needs to call in a prescription for your child.

If the doctor needs to call you back, make sure you are available and verify the correct phone number with the office staff.

When to Call Your Child’s Doctor (Tweet this)

The following symptoms should prompt you to call your pediatric provider’s office to determine if your child needs to be evaluated in an urgent care setting or local emergency room.chla-rn-remedies-911.png

NOTE: When you call your child’s pediatric provider’s office, don’t forget to have a piece of paper and a something to write so you can write any instructions the office may have for you regarding the care of your child. 

When to Dial 911 (Tweet this)

If your child shows any of the below symptoms, dial 911.chla-rn-remedies-dial911.png

Trust your instincts as a parent and make sure you have your child’s pediatric provider’s office number easily available, for example on the refrigerator. When your child is sick, you don’t have to search for the number.

A great resource is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); they developed helpful guidelines on when you should call urgent care or in an emergency, dial 911.

Many thanks to Michelle Thompson, MD, physician, Division of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for her help with this blog post.