If Your Child Gets Hurt While Social Distancing, Here's When to Take Them to the ER

Alessia Santoro

With everyone staying at home in their family's individual bubbles, it feels like all should be well as long as we're social distancing. However, don't get complacent: staying at home doesn't mean accidents are on pause or that kids can't get injured during this time. Kids are accident-prone in general, and left to their own devices at home, they have even more opportunities to hurt themselves. And, because visiting emergency rooms and hospitals is risky right now due to the high number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases around the country, it's even scarier to imagine a scenario in which you have to rush your child to the ER for an injury.

We spoke to two experts: Dr. Adrian Rawlinson, vice president of medical affairs at Upswing Health, who shed a bit more light on typical kiddo injuries and which types require immediate medical attention versus the ones you can keep an eye on as they heal at home, and Dr. Jean Siri Moorjani, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital in Florida, who offered some preventative tips.

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Which Types of Injuries Warrant a Trip to the ER With Your Child?

As it turns out, even though families are encouraged to stay home right now, there aren't any major injuries that would previously require a trip to the ER that can now be monitored from home (broken bones haven't gotten the whole social-distancing memo, apparently). Dr. Rawlinson said, "All severe injuries should be seen by a doctor in the ER. Examples would include severe traumatic head injuries, concussions, loss of consciousness, major fractures with bony deformities, major injuries with blood loss, etc."

If you're not sure what exactly to look out for in the case of your kids (or you!) suffering a major injury, Dr. Rawlinson shared a list of warning signs to be aware of both now and post-pandemic:

  • A wound that does not stop bleeding after several minutes of applied pressure

  • A cut that has ragged edges, skin edges that are far apart, or is long or deep

  • Redness, bruising, pus, or swelling that gets worse

  • The injured area feels numb

  • A popping sound occurs during the injury, which could mean completely torn ligaments

  • An injured body part that is oddly bent or misshapen

  • Any major injury of the head or face

  • Pain that gets worse or if the injured person has trouble breathing

Additionally, Dr. Rawlinson outlined the warning signs of a fractured bone, specifically, which include "severe pain that is getting worse, swelling around the joint, and the inability to walk, bear weight, or use the joint."

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Which Types of Injuries Can Heal at Home?

Although overcautious parents with a "just in case" mindset may have brought their kids into an ER for a minor injury before this pandemic, parents are encouraged to keep kids at home right now unless they require medical attention. According to Dr. Rawlinson, "minor sprains and strains, bruising, and abrasions can be safely treated at home."

With minor injuries like these, he recommends following the "RICE rule" to help it heal at home.

R: Rest the injured body part.
I: Ice the area several times a day to reduce swelling.
C: Compress the area with a splint or bandage to prevent swelling.
E: Elevate the injured part so that it's above the heart.


If you're not completely sure how to differentiate between a minor and major injury, it's always advised to speak to your child's doctor or another medical professional first. Especially in these times, a phone call before showing up to the emergency room is preferred to minimize the risk of infections of COVID-19 and to potentially help you understand the type of attention a specific injury or illness warrants.

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How Can You Help to Prevent Major and Minor Injuries in Kids?

Although Dr. Moorjani hasn't seen many COVID-19 cases in children herself, she says she's definitely seen an increase in household accidents because everyone has been home and parents are juggling so much. "We're seeing children not necessarily getting sick or injured from coronavirus, but they are still getting hurt in other ways because of the situation everybody's been living in right now," she told POPSUGAR. She added that she's noticed more accidents - such as children ingesting things like medications or chemicals - partially because it may be difficult to keep an eye on kids 100 percent of the time if you're busy homeschooling another child or trying to work from home.

To prevent some of these household injuries and accidents, Dr. Moorjani shared a few general tips for families to help make sure kids are safe while everyone is home more. "Make sure you keep household cleaners and medications locked away where children can't access them," she said. "Make sure that if you have a pool that you do have a tall fence around it and an alarm for the door" or one that can detect children in the pool. Dr. Moorjani added as a reminder that while kids are playing outside more than usual, always make sure that they're wearing a helmet and other protective gear when riding things like bikes, roller blades, and scooters.