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Visiting SickKids

Is it an emergency?

Your child is sick, but is it an emergency?

The Hospital for Sick Children is here to serve you. Our Emergency Department is here to serve children whose lives may be in danger. But two out of every three children brought to our Emergency doesn't need emergency care. They have ear aches, flu, colds or a bit of fever. Problems like these can be well looked after by a family doctor, paediatrician or staff in a community health centre. Please talk to your doctor before your child gets sick. Ask whom you should call or see when your doctor isn't available.

How can I tell if my child has a cold?

A child with a cold may have

  • a fever under 39 C or 102 F for one or two days
  • a stuffy or runny nose
  • a cough

These signs usually last five to 10 days. If your child is active, playful and eating well, you probably do not need a doctor.

When should I call the doctor?

Call the doctor when a baby under three months has a fever. Also call a doctor if your child has a cold with any of these signs

  • a fever that lasts more than a day or two, especially with poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or lack of playfulness
  • a fever over 39 C or 102 F
  • a fever that keeps coming back

When should I get help right away?

Call a doctor right away if your child shows any of the following signs. If you can't reach a doctor take your child to the emergency department of your local hospital right away

  • When the child has diarrhea and vomiting AND has no tears, dry mouth or is not urinating.
  • When a baby under three months of age has a fever over 38 C or 100.4 F.
  • When your child has difficulty breathing.
  • When your child develops a rash that does not turn white when you push on it.
  • When your child has a fever and is difficult to wake up or is very sleepy.

Emergency Services at The Hospital for Sick Children

Our Emergency Department never closes. Children who need urgent care are seen first . All children are checked by a nurse as soon as they arrive. But it may be a busy time. If their need is not urgent they may have to wait hours to see a doctor.

Additional resources

You can call these numbers anytime day or night.
Ontario Poison Centre 1-800-268-9017 or 416-813-5900
Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000

Visit About Kids Health for trustworthy children's health information.