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What You Need to Know in an Emergency

Could you remember important information about your child's health in an emergency?

That can be hard, so doctors suggest that parents keep a record of their kids' important health facts handy. This can help a medical team make a better, quicker diagnosis when time really counts.

What Should a Medical History Include?

Making a complete written or computer-based medical history for your kids is a good idea. Be sure their medical records have this information:


This is especially important if a child is allergic to any medicines — penicillin, for example — or other antibiotics. Allergies to food, dye, or contrast material (dye or other substances used in tests like CAT scans) can come into play too, so make note of anything your child has had a reaction to. Kids who've previously been hospitalized may have developed latex allergies.

This information can sometimes help emergency personnel find a cause for problems such as breathing problems and hives.


Your handy medical record should list any medicines, including dosages, that your kids currently take. Some medicines react badly when taken together, so the paramedics and doctors need this information before they give a child anything. You'll need to know when a child took the medicine last and how much was taken.

Pre-Existing Problems

It is also very important for emergency personnel to be told of any health problems or illnesses a child has had. For example, does your child have diabetes, a bleeding disorder, or asthma? These pre-existing conditions can have a huge effect on which tests and treatments are used in an emergency.

Kids who have a chronic health problem or a known allergy should wear an identifying tag on a necklace or bracelet. This can help doctors who are providing emergency care, especially if a child suddenly becomes ill at childcare, school, or a friend's house.

Don't forget to include the dates of any surgeries your child has had — this can be important to the course of treatment in an emergency.


Keeping a clear and up-to-date record of your kids' immunization history can help doctors do a better job of diagnosing a problem in an emergency. If the doctor suspects that a child has an infection, for example, it may save much time to know that the child has had a particular vaccine.

The staff at your doctor's office can help you compile information on your kids' immunization status.


There may not be time to weigh a child in an emergency. Having a recent weight handy can help doctors calculate dosages of any medicine that may be needed.

Family History

A family medical history is helpful information to have on hand. Doctors usually ask if anyone else in the family has any medical problems because this can be important when diagnosing and dealing with a current illness.

You might not be able to recall all this information in an emergency, so add it to your kids' medical records.

Information for Caregivers

If your kids spend time in a childcare center or with a babysitter, you'll want to add other information to the medical record.

Besides instructions on how to reach you quickly, your childcare provider should have the names and phone numbers of your child's doctor(s) and dentist. This will help them contact the office where your child's full medical history is on file in case you can't be reached.

And if you'll be away from your kids for a longer time, such as for a vacation or business trip, and they stay with a sitter or family member other than your spouse, you'll want to leave a release allowing that person to authorize medical care. (Note: In the event of a life-threatening emergency, a medical release isn't necessary. Medical personnel are authorized to do what they must to save the life of someone in case of an accident or other emergency.)

It doesn't take long to compile a written or computer-based medical history for your kids. And doing so could mean saving critical minutes — when they count most!

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 10, 2023

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