Why Children Visit the ER

Emergency room visits among children were mostly on nights and weekends

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Young children tend to visit the emergency room more than those of other ages. Recent research aimed to find out the reasons why.

A recent study found that most of the children going to the emergency room were going at night or on a weekend. These are times when doctors' offices are typically not open.

Past research showed adults went to the ER when they thought only a hospital could help or when their doctor's office was closed.

"Call 911 for emergencies."

The study was conducted by Renee Gindi, PhD, of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a colleague.

The authors analyzed the results of the National Health Interview Survey, which the CDC conducts throughout the year.

The survey in 2012 involved information for 13,275 children whose parents or caregivers were first interviewed in their homes and then may have received follow-up phone calls.

The results showed that children who were on Medicaid were more likely to visit the ER in the past year than children who did not have insurance or had private insurance.

While 25 percent of the children on Medicaid went to the ER in 2012 one or more times, 13 percent with private insurance and 14 percent without insurance also did.

The majority of children going to the ER — 75 percent of them — went on an evening or on the weekend. This rate did not vary among the children based on their health insurance status.

For those who had private insurance, 68 percent of the children going to the ER went because their injury or health condition was considered serious enough to need ER attention. This percentage was lower for children on Medicaid (60 percent) or those who did not have insurance (59 percent).

The most common reasons children went to the ER for serious problems were that "only a hospital could help" or "the problem was too serious for a doctor's office," according to the NCHS report.

If the seriousness of the health problem was not the reason for the children's ER visit, then the reason tended to be because the doctor's office was closed.

"Some reasons for ER visits (e.g., 'no other place to go' and 'doctor’s office [was] not open') may depend on whether a child has a regular source of care, an association seen previously among adults," the authors wrote.

The study was published as an NCHS Data Brief in July. The research did not receive funding outside of the CDC. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 31, 2014
Last Updated:
August 1, 2014