Children’s Emergencies

Children’s Emergencies

Part of: Paediatric Care

Every parent fears the moment when a routine day turns into an unexpected emergency involving their child.

Paediatric emergencies refer to serious and often sudden health situations in children that require immediate medical attention. These can range from common accidents like falls or ingestions to more complex conditions like severe respiratory infections or allergic reactions.

Your child may require urgent care for conditions including:

  • Hand, foot, mouth, disease
  • Asthma or minor wheeze
  • Allergic reactions
  • Eye irritation
  • Suspected dengue fever
  • Insects or small animal bites
  • Persistent vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Limb injuries
  • Poisoning
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizures / fits
  • Scalds / burn injuries

Important: If your child requires urgent medical attention, visit the Parkway East Paediatric Urgent Care Centre in the eastern side of Singapore, or the one-stop multidisciplinary Parkway MediCentre in Bidadari, located within the Woodleigh Mall.

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Common conditions treated at paediatric urgent care

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Worsening pain, especially if constant in nature
  • Worsening pain, especially if localised to a specific part of the abdomen
  • Associated with prolonged fever, especially 5 days or more
  • Poor oral intake, even with fluids
  • Recurrent vomiting, especially if unable to tolerate small amount of fluids
  • Vomitus that is green in color, or contains blood
  • Poor urine output (e.g. dry diapers or with very little but concentrated urine)
  • Profuse watery diarrhoea, especially in the context of poor oral intake
  • Blood in stools
  • Drowsy, especially in the absence of fever
  • Lethargic, and not interested in playing or engaging with parents
  • Altered behaviour and looking dazed (e.g. “not his/her usual self”)
  • Pale-looking

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Worsening skin rashes (e.g. hives)
  • Swelling of lips, face and around the eyes
  • Breathing difficulties or noisy breathing
  • Pale-looking, or blue-looking lips or tongue
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty swallowing, choking sensation, or sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Fast heartbeat, or palpitations
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed or fainting spells
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Heavy or rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Breathless and unable to speak or only in very short phrases
  • Persistent noisy breathing
  • Associated with prolonged fever, especially 5 days or more
  • Repeated post-cough vomiting, involving large amounts of feeds
  • Poor oral intake, even with fluids or milk
  • Poor urine output
  • Drowsy or lethargic
  • Altered behaviour and looking dazed
  • Disrupted sleep (e.g. woken up repeatedly by bouts of coughing)
  • Pale-looking, or blue-looking lips or tongue
  • Asthma attacks responding poorly to bronchodilators

A fracture refers to a cracked or broken bone. While bones are able to withstand pressure or impact to some extent, they will break if the force is too great to bear. This means that any bone in the body can break. A fracture is usually, but not always, the result of an injury and may be partial or complete.

Fractures in children are a common occurrence, and may be caused by falls or sports injuries.

Learn more about fractures and other paediatric orthopaedic conditions.

Also known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis is an infection of your child’s stomach and intestines that may lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, or both.

Learn more about gastroenteritis and how you can manage them.

  • Fall from height, especially if the height is 3 times or more than that of the child
  • Loss of consciousness, even if only for a brief period
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Recurrent unprovoked vomiting
  • Persistent dizziness
  • Worsening headache
  • Unable to walk (in the absence of limb injuries) or keep his/her balance
  • Weakness in one or more limbs
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Blood or fluid flowing from the nose or ears
  • Large, deep or puncture wounds on the face or scalp
  • Drowsiness
  • Dazed-looking

A fever is an increased body temperature of 37.4°C or above. It is the body's natural response when fighting an infection. In children, it is common to see high temperatures of up to 40°C. Having a higher temperature does not indicate a more severe illness.

However, for infants and toddlers, a fever may suggest a serious infection.

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Temperature of 38°C or more (for infants under 3 months)
  • Temperature of 40°C or more (for infants 3 months and above)
  • High fever that lasts for 3 days or more
  • Drowsiness, especially when the fever seems to be getting better
  • Lethargic, and not interested in playing or engaging with parents
  • Altered behaviour and looking dazed (e.g. “not his/her usual self”)
  • Poor oral intake, even with fluids or milk
  • Poor urine output (e.g. dry diapers or with very little, yet concentrated, urine)
  • Heavy or rapid breathing, looking breathless, or persistent noisy breathing
  • Pale-looking
  • Bruising of skin
  • Bleeding from nose or gums

Learn more about fever and how to manage the condition.

Cuts and lacerations refer to tears or openings in the skin, often caused by sharp, edged objects like kitchen knives, razor blades and scissors. Such wounds can cause significant bleeding.

Other types of open wounds include abrasions, punctures, and avulsions.

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Persistent bleeding despite continued application of direct pressure
  • Deep puncture wounds
  • Gaping wounds with exposed underlying tissue / structures
  • Wounds near or involving eyes, ears, nose, mouth and neck
  • Limb wounds affecting function (e.g. unable to flex or extend finger)
  • Heavily contaminated wounds (e.g. soil, sand, glass, pond or drain water)
  • Animal bites or claw injuries
  • Worsening of pain at injured areas
  • Pus discharge from injured areas

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Bone is exposed (i.e. open fracture)
  • Deformity of the bone or joint
  • Increasing swelling and/or bruising of a joint
  • Worsening limb pain, especially on movement or touch
  • Unable to stand briefly on affected lower limb
  • Wounds affecting function (e.g. unable to flex or extend finger)

This usually results in unexpected and sudden symptoms, especially if the exposure or ingestion was not witnessed by an adult caregiver.

If the exposure or ingestion was witnessed, please seek medical attention immediately.
Do not wait for symptoms to develop or worsen. Do not deliberately induce vomiting.

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Recurrent vomiting
  • Worsening throat or abdominal pain
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Rapid breathing/breathlessness, or conversely, shallow breathing with pauses

All scalds and burn injuries, unless very mild (e.g. first degree) and involving a small area, should be reviewed by a doctor.

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • Blistering with affected skin peeling off
  • Large area of involvement (i.e. anything more than the surface area of the palm of the patient)
  • Involves the face, neck, hands, feet or genitalia
  • Persistent fever
  • Worsening of pain in injured areas
  • Pus discharge from injured areas

If your child was trapped in a room which caught fire, you should also seek immediate medical attention if they have the following symptoms:

  • Hoarse voice
  • Soot in nostrils or throat
  • Singed eyebrows
  • Drowsiness

Signs you need to bring your child to an urgent care centre:

  • First episode of fits or seizures (with or without fever)
  • Fits persistent for 5 minutes or longer
  • Fits happening after trauma, fall, or head injury
  • Prolonged drowsiness after the seizures, especially if 30 minutes or longer
  • Not back to normal self after a fit (e.g. slurred speech, unable to move part of the body, persistently dazed, or not recognising caregivers)
  • Cessation of breathing, or blue-looking lips/tongue, during or after the seizures
  • Seizure still persistent in spite of anti-seizure medication given, in patients with a known or established history
  • Change of seizure pattern in known patients

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

If your child has this condition, chronic inflammation of the colon and ulcers can gradually worsen to bleeding and producing pus.

Learn more about ulcerative colitis and its treatment options.

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) refers to an infection that affects the upper portion of your airway. The affected areas may include the nose, throat, larynx (voice box), sinuses, pharynx, and trachea or windpipe.

URTI can be transmitted through direct contact with droplets from a sneeze or cough. It can also be transmitted if you touch your nose or mouth with hands exposed to the virus or bacteria.

Learn more about URTIs and how they can be treated.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.