Mama in the City: 3 Tips for Making ER Visits more Comfortable


by Adriana Villela

I would like to start off by saying that I had a hard time coming up with an appropriate title for this post, because I don’t by any means want to make light of taking a child to the ER. As a parent, I’ve had to take my now five-year-old daughter to the ER twice, and both times were NOT pleasant experiences.

The first time we took my daughter to SickKids ER, she was gasping for air, due to croup. She was just under 3 years old at the time. More recently, we took her to SickKids ER after she developed a fever and complained of stomach pain around the belly button.

While the first time we took her to the ER was in the middle of the night and in much more of a panic, so we just grabbed our cell phones, threw her into the car, and drove off.

While gravely concerned, we were a little less panicked and rushed for our most recent ER trip, so we had a little more time to organize ourselves and pack a few essentials to help pass the time. I mean, let’s face it: it will likely be a few hours before they’re seen by a doctor. And if they’re “well enough” (i.e. not vomiting or writhing in agonizing pain) to get bored, a couple of hours in the waiting room may feel like an eternity.

With my most recent visit to SickKids ER in mind, I thought that it would be handy to put together a little list of things that parents can do to make a visit to the ER a little more comfortable for their child and for them. Remember that this list applies more if you’re not in a crazy rush to get to the ER. Obviously, if time is of the essence, your priority should be to get your child to the ER as quickly as possible.

1. Bring Entertainment

For the kids, bring an iPad (or the like), with headphones, so that your child can watch a movie while they wait. Or heck, pack a stack of paper and some crayons. Having entertainment made a huge difference for my daughter as we waited to be seen this last time around, as she complained less about waiting around to be seen. (And yes, they will still complain.) For the adults, bring a laptop or your cell phone. And don’t forget chargers for your devices!

2. Have Food Available for Your Child

If you have to bring your child to the ER in the middle of the night, chances are that the hospital’s own eateries might be closed. So if you have a chance, pack some snacks and drinks, and have them on-hand, because your child might get hungry and/or thirsty. But please use common sense. If your child is puking, you probably won’t want to feed them. Or if the triage nurse tells you not to feed them, please heed their warning.

3. Be Patient

We all hate waiting. Especially in ERs, where the wait times may be up to several hours. But if you’re impatient around your child, especially to hospital staff, your child will sense it, and it will just make them more antsy. And help curb their own impatience by keeping them busy. Even if it means playing a game of “I Spy” just to keep their minds off of things. I know. Easier said than done.

And don’t forget that when you bring your child to the ER, be as specific as possible with the triage nurse, and have your health card ready. The faster you can get through the check-in and triage process, the faster things will move.

I hope that you manage to stay away from the ER, but if you find yourself there, hopefully these tips will make for a slightly more comfortable wait for your child and for you.

Adriana_Hannah_scooters Adriana Villela is a Toronto lifestyle family photographer and the owner of ÜmlaPhoto. She is a mother of a very feisty and creative 5-year-old, and a wife to a man who manages to be a bigger computer geek than she is. When she isn’t capturing the beauty of life through her lens, you can find her zipping along Toronto’s streets on her pink kick scooter, on family bike adventures, or hitting her favourite climbing gym with her family.

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