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To E.R. or Not To E.R. …

All parents know the terrible feeling of having a sick child and not knowing how to help him feel better. Many times, not knowing what else to do, those parents end up in a hospital emergency room.

Nonurgent conditions account for 58-82 percent of pediatric emergency room visits, according to a report in the November-December 2008 issue of the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics. But there’s a downside to bringing nonurgent cases to a hospital emergency room: It costs more and over-use of antibiotics could reduce kids’ ability to fight off illnesses on their own. And, longer wait times could cause a delay in caring for a child with a truly urgent case, says Dr. Halim Hennes, medical director of the emergency department at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

Hennes urges parents to call their regular pediatrician for advice before going to the emergency room. But, he says: “If you have a concern, don’t hesitate to get treatment. Emergency departments are available to give you the help you need.”