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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. 

Unsure whether to visit the Emergency Department?

Please contact your primary care provider to see what options are available, or use our Virtual Urgent Care program. Our symptom checker can help you find out what type of visit is needed for your medical concern and if you are eligible for a Virtual Urgent Care visit with a SickKids ED physician. 

Use our symptom checker

Getting to SickKids and parking

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.

Prepare for your visit

This information will help you prepare for a visit to our Emergency Department.

Safety and infection prevention

If you are not feeling well or have any symptoms, please make every effort to find someone else who can bring your child to the hospital.

Masking guidelines

Masking is optional at SickKids for patients, families, and staff members, but anyone may wear a mask at any time if they choose. Masks will continue to be available at the main entrances of the hospital and within each department or clinical area.

Family presence

Two family caregivers are welcome to accompany each patient in the Emergency Department.

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Family spaces for siblings

The Emergency Department is a busy place with limited space. Families are encouraged to make alternate arrangements for other children if possible, or use the PlayPark and other Family Spaces at SickKids.

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, called Health Equity: Your Health Matters. This form asks questions related to your ethnicity, gender, income and more. We are collecting this information to learn about health-care equity gaps and create programs and services to ensure we are providing the best care to all our patients. None of the information you tell us can hurt the care you receive at SickKids, but can only help us understand you and your unique needs. It is your choice to give SickKids this information; patient care will not be affected if you choose not to fill out a form.

Learn more about Health Equity: Your Health Matters

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.

  1. You will meet your child's nurse who will examine your child and ask more questions.
  2. 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. 
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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.

Two figures stand in front of a desk with another figure seated behind it.

Triage 1

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.

Person seated on a table with another person standing in front of them.

Triage 2

A second triage nurse will ask more questions about your reason for visiting, examine your child and place an ID bracelet on your child.

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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.

Person seated on a chair with a baby in their lap.

Waiting area

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.

Figure holds a stethoscope to a child sized figure seated on a table.

Exam room

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.

Person under an X-ray machine.

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.

Adult and child figures walk out the door, waving behind them to someone seated at a desk.

Leaving the Emergency Department

Your child may be discharged home, transferred to another hospital or admitted to a SickKids inpatient unit.

Going home or staying overnight

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.

We are committed to providing accessible formats to our visitors as part of our commitment to Accessibility. Captions are available on this video through YouTube.

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Educational resources

About Kids Health logo

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.

Boy getting his heartbeat checked by a doctor


A fever can be a sign that the body is fighting an infection. Learn how to properly care for a baby, toddler or child with a fever.

Temperature taking

Learn how to correctly take your child's temperature when they have a fever.

Medication for temperatures

Learn how acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used to help make your child more comfortable and bring down their fever.

What is a cold

Colds are caused by viral infections in the nose and throat. Learn about the causes, duration, prevention and treatment of viral upper respiratory infections.

What is influenza

Although the flu is very common, it can be dangerous for young children and those with compromised immune systems or other underlying diseases. Learn more about the flu and how to protect against it.

Winter tips

Keep the whole family safe, healthy and happy during the cold weather season with these winter tips.


Learn about common allergies and what to do if your child has an allergic reaction.

Severe allergic reactions

Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction to an allergen. Learn how to prevent and identify anaphylaxis and how to respond when someone has a reaction.

How to care for asthma

Learn about asthma attacks and what you need to know about care after a hospital visit.

Accessibility at SickKids

Learn how we’re making SickKids facilities, programs, policies, and services more accessible for everyone.

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Patient Feedback

By providing feedback about your visit to SickKids, we can continue to improve the patient and family experience.

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Securely access you or your child’s SickKids health records online.

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