Coming to Emergency
The SickKids Emergency Department is there for you when your child is sick and in need of emergent care. The Emergency Department is open 24 hours, every day of the year. We are committed to providing your child with safe, timely, high-quality care.
Learn what to expect in our Emergency Department, from arrival to being seen, and what you need to know before coming.
What you should know during viral illness season at SickKids’ Emergency Department
As the viral illness season continues, families coming to SickKids' Emergency Department (ED) may experience longer than normal wait times for non-emergent issues. As always, the sickest patients are seen first.
If you’re unsure whether to visit the ED, please contact your primary care provider to see what options are available, or use our Virtual Urgent Care program.
Please come to the ED prepared with water bottles, nut-free snacks, phone chargers and entertainment. Thank you for your patience as our team is working their hardest to help everyone in need of care!
Virtual Urgent Care
Find out if you are eligible for a virtual urgent care visit with a SickKids Emergency Department physician. Use our symptom checker to find out what type of visit you need for your concern.
Emergency Department entrance
The Emergency Department is located on the Main Floor of the Atrium, near the 170 Elizabeth Street hospital doors and Main Information Desk.
Parking is available underground and street level. The entrance to our parking garage is located on Elm Street and is open 24/7.
All patients and caregivers self-screen at hospital entrances for COVID-19 symptoms, mandatory masking for caregivers, staff and (when appropriate) patients, restrictions to our family presence and visitor policy and ramped up cleaning by environmental services staff.
More about our Emergency Department during the pandemic:
For everyone’s added safety, we are providing masks to all family caregivers and patients (2 years of age and older) coming to the hospital, which must be worn for the duration of the visit.
Please wear the mask provided to help lower the risk of community spread while protecting yourself and others at the hospital.
This is important as maintaining the required physical distancing rule of staying at least six feet (two metres) apart is not always possible.
Visit our COVID-19 Information Hub for more on our masking policy at SickKids.
Two family caregivers may accompany patients in all areas of the hospital. Siblings and other visitors are not allowed but some exceptions may apply. We appreciate that this restriction may require you to make childcare arrangements for siblings, and we thank you for your understanding during this challenging time.
Visit our COVID-19 Information Hub for more on what you need to know before coming to SickKids.
Please contact your primary care provider if you require a note for your child’s school or daycare.
Do not visit the Emergency Department only to be tested for COVID-19.
All hospital emergency departments are following the same provincial guidance and should only be seeing patients needing emergency care. If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, testing is only done in the Emergency Department if they meet the following criteria:
- Admitted to stay on a unit
- An infant less than 90 days old
- Immunocompromised or on immunosuppressive medications (or living with immunocompromised sibling)
- Chronic respiratory condition (including asthma)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic kidney or liver disease
- Metabolic disease or diabetes
- Obesity (BMI>30 or 85th percentile)
- Hemoglobinopathies (e.g., Sickle Cell disease)
- Neurological impairment
- Complex care patients
- Living in a remote community (e.g., First Nations)
- Living in a vulnerable setting (e.g., group home, homeless shelter, detention center)
Thank you for your understanding.
Visit the Ontario website to find a testing location near you.
Prepare for your visit
This information will help you prepare for a visit to our Emergency Department.
To help us care for your child and prevent disruption to your child's routine, please bring any of the following that your child may need. Please disinfect all items you bring to SickKids before and after your visit.
- Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card
- Current, labelled medications your child is taking, including prescriptions or over-the-counter medications
- Written plans or summaries you have about your child’s medical condition
- Water bottles and nut-free snacks
- Entertainment, such as books, tablets and games
- Phone chargers
- Diapers and formula if needed
When you arrive at the Emergency Department, the first person you will meet with is a triage nurse who will assess your child's medical care needs. Based on this information, our staff decide who gets seen first. Children are treated based on need, not the order in which they arrive. The more seriously ill or hurt the child is, the more quickly he or she gets treated.
After the triage nurse has assessed your child, you will be asked to register and then take a seat in the waiting room. As part of registration, you may be asked to fill out a Health Equity Demographic Information Form. This form asks patients and their caregivers to provide demographic information, such as ethnicity, spoken language, gender and income. We are collecting this information to learn more about our patients and families, to help us plan and improve care and services, and to ensure that we are providing the best possible care for all. It is your choice to give SickKids this information; patient care will not be affected if you choose not to fill out a form.
As always, the sickest patients are seen first, and families may experience much longer than normal wait times for non-emergent issues.
All children are checked by a triage nurse as soon as they arrive, but it may be a busy time during certain periods of the day or season. For example, evenings are very busy, especially between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m.
If you have any concerns, or your child's condition changes, talk to the triage nurse. We appreciate your patience.
Please talk to the triage nurse, your child’s nurse or a doctor before giving your child anything to eat or drink, in case a special test (requiring an empty stomach) may be needed. If your child does eat or drink something, it may delay their treatment.
When it is your child's turn, an assessment will happen in two stages.
- You will meet your child's nurse who will examine your child and ask more questions.
- The doctor will continue the examination and arrange for your child to be treated.
The Emergency Department paediatrician has final responsibility for your child's care.
SickKids is a teaching hospital. We not only look after children who are ill, but we also teach people who want to be doctors, nurses, and other health care workers. These trainees will be involved in your child's care. They work with the nurse and paediatrician who are responsible for your child's care.
In some cases, the paediatrician may decide that your child needs to see a specialist, which may require an additional wait. We may decide that your child should receive care at your local hospital. If so, we arrange for your child's admission and transport.
Internet is available for families.
Username: SickKids Guest
During long waits or uncomfortable procedures, please ask our Child Life Specialist or volunteers about these supports available for your child: toys and distractions, autism sensory cart, tablet, DVD player, VR goggles.
Once in your examination room, ask your team if you would like blankets or a chair that pulls out into a bed.
The prayer room/chapel is located on the first floor up the Atrium elevators.
Please let a team member know if you run out of any important infant supplies (diapers, breast pumps, bottle warmers, formula or pacifiers). We can provide replacements. The breastfeeding room is located near Shoppers Drug Mart.
The hospital does not supply phone chargers.
Water and ice machines are located near the nursing station. Food and drinks may be purchased from one of our food retailers during their business hours. There is a vending machine in the Atrium that serves hot and cold food 24 hours a day. Let a team member know before leaving the Emergency Department.
Please ask a nurse before feeding your child as it might affect their treatment.
What to expect in the ED
Children are treated based on need, not the order in which they arrive. The sickest patients are seen first.
A typical visit to the Emergency Department will involve several steps. You may need to move several times as you wait. We appreciate your cooperation.
When you arrive at the Emergency Department, the first person you will meet with is a triage nurse who will ask for your child’s health card, your reason for visiting and screening questions.
A second triage nurse will ask more questions about your reason for visiting, examine your child and place an ID bracelet on your child.
The registration clerk will ask for your contact information and your child’s health card. They will also ask whether you would like to be approached about research studies.
This is where you will wait to see a doctor. You may be asked to move multiple times during your visit to keep everyone physically distanced and safe. Please let a nurse know if your child’s condition worsens.
A nurse will take your child’s vital signs and examine your child. The doctor will ask questions about why you came, your child’s symptoms and health history and examine your child.
Tests and specialists
Your child may have to see specialty doctors and/or have tests done, such as a blood or urine test, an X-ray or an ultrasound.
Leaving the Emergency Department
Your child may be discharged home, transferred to another hospital or admitted to a SickKids inpatient unit.
After your child is treated, you will be given written instructions to take home.
You may be asked to visit your family doctor or to make an appointment in one of the hospital clinics. There are different ways to make appointments for our clinics. Your child's doctor will explain the next step.
If you need a clinic appointment, please visit the Coming for Appointments section of our website for more information.
If your child's condition does not improve or gets worse, you should contact your child's regular doctor or take your child to the closest Emergency Department.
The doctor may decide that your child should stay in the hospital for further care.
When a room is ready, you will go to the Admitting Department registration. Then, we will hand over your child's care to the medical and nursing staff on the unit that your child will be staying on.
While you wait for a room your child will continue to be monitored and cared for by the Emergency Department staff.
For more information about staying at SickKids, visit the Staying Overnight section of our website.
AboutKidsHealth is a health education website for children, youth and their caregivers, with trusted answers from SickKids experts. Learn about common conditions and injuries often treated in the Emergency Department Learning Hub.
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By providing feedback about your visit to SickKids, we can continue to improve the patient and family experience.