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Coming to Emergency

The SickKids Emergency Department is there for you when your child is sick and in need of urgent care. Learn what to expect in our Emergency Department, from arrival to being seen, and what you need to know before coming. Our Emergency Department is open 24 hours, every day of the year. We are committed to providing your child with the best care possible.

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.

Virtual Urgent Care

Find out if your concern needs an emergency department or primary care visit or if you are eligible for a virtual urgent care visit.

COVID-19 updates

Our Emergency Department, as well as inpatient and outpatient areas, remain as safe as possible for patients, families and staff.  For the protection of everyone at SickKids, the easing of visitor restrictions is happening at a gradual and cautious pace. Due to COVID-19, we are taking extra precautions including screening anyone entering the building for COVID-19 symptoms, travel history, masking patients (when appropriate), parents, caregivers and staff, restrictions to our family presence and visitor policy and ramped up cleaning by environmental services staff. 

Visit our COVID-19 Information Hub

More about our Emergency Department during the pandemic:

Please note: Our Emergency Department is not a COVID-19 assessment centre. We do not test children without symptoms who are being discharged.  

We have specific testing criteria for children who are unwell in the context of an emergency visit. Children with mild symptoms, such as a runny nose, should go to a COVID-19 assessment centre to be tested, instead of coming to the Emergency Department.   

  • Our Emergency Department does not test caregivers and other family members. Find a COVID-19 assessment centre near you and get your family tested. 
  • We will accept referrals from assessment centres with concerns about any child. 
  • We are unable to provide clearance letters for schools since the results of a COVID-19 test would not be available at the time of discharge. Please contact your primary care provider if you require a note for your child's school or daycare.

If you or your child are experiencing any of the following symptoms that we screen for at SickKids or have recently travelled internationally, please contact your primary care provider before coming to the hospital:  

  • Sore throat 
  • Runny nose 
  • Nasal congestion/stuffy nose 
  • Cough 
  • Fever 
  • Sneezing 
  • Loss of taste or smell 
  • Mild vomiting 
  • Mild diarrhea 

Take a self-assessment if you think you or your child may have COVID-19. 

To make the Emergency Department as safe as possible and to ensure physical distancing, only one family caregiver is permitted if you are bringing your child to the Emergency Department. Families may designate two caregivers to take turns being with the child, but only one caregiver may be present at any time.

Visit our COVID-19 Information Hub for more on what you need to know before coming to SickKids.

Visit our COVID-19 Information Hub for more on what you need to know before coming to SickKids.

For everyone’s added safety, we are providing masks to all family caregivers and patients (6 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.

What to expect

This information will explain what you can expect from 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:

  • 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
  • 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.

Children who need urgent care are seen first. Evenings are very busy, especially between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m.

All children are checked by a nurse as soon as they arrive, but it may be a busy time during certain periods of the day or season. Please be prepared: If your child’s need is not urgent, they may have to wait several hours to see a doctor.

How long you wait depends on how ill your child is, and which staff and treatment rooms are free. If we are treating critically ill or injured children, you may have to wait a long time. And of course, an emergency case can arrive at any time.

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.

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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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.

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