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Babies and children - when to go to an emergency department

A paediatric emergency department is a hospital A&E that treats children.

Your nearest paediatric emergency department might be in a children's hospital. It could also be in an adult hospital emergency department that admits children.

If you think your child needs to visit an emergency department, bring them to a paediatric hospital emergency department if possible. This is an A&E that treats children. These hospitals have expertise in treating children.

Go to your nearest paediatric emergency department if your child:

  • is hard to wake, unusually drowsy or does not seem to know you
  • is breathing unusually, either faster or slower than usual, or grunting
  • has a high temperature and severe headache or neck stiffness
  • has had a head injury and vomits more than once
  • has a large burn or scald, or if the burn or scald is on their hands, face or genitals
  • has an eye injury
  • has a persistent fever, or feels unusually cold or floppy
  • has an unusual or high-pitched cry
  • has a hoarse cough with noisy breathing or is wheezing
  • is wheezing and is unable to speak
  • has ingested medication, a poison or a chemical
  • has been bitten by an animal (unless a very minor wound)
  • gets an electric shock
  • has something stuck in their eyes, ears or nose

Injury units

Injury units are available in some parts of the country. They treat injuries that are not life-threatening.

Most injury units treat patients over 5 years of age. Some injury units have higher age limits.

page last reviewed: 17/04/2019
next review due: 17/04/2022