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Emergency

We provide emergency care for babies, children and youth up to 16 years old who are sick or injured and need pediatric emergency care.
When to come

The BC Children's Hospital Emergency Department (ED) is experiencing high volumes. 

Half of the top reasons patients visit our ED may not actually require a visit to the emergency department.

Emergency departments can be busy and sometimes, to avoid long unnecessary waits, your child’s illness could best be treated at a doctor's office, a walk-in clinic or an urgent primary care centre

Mental health crisis

Emergency versus non-emergency care

Here are some examples to help decide if your child needs emergency care.

Emergency

  • respiratory distress (working hard to breathe or breathing faster than normal)
  • pale skin, whitish or blue lips
  • asthma or wheezing and not responding to prescribed medications
Not an emergency
  • nasal congestion and cough (even if it interrupts sleep)
  • symptoms of the 'common cold'
  • mild asthma or wheezing that responds to usual puffers

Emergency

  • in a child less than 3 months old
  • with immune system problems or complex chronic health problems
  • and very sleepy or difficult to wake
  • for more than 5 days in a child any age
Not an emergency
  • in healthy and vaccinated babies
  • in children who appear generally well
Reducing a fever without fever-reducing medication
If you are trying to treat a fever without fever-reducing medication, please try these steps:
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids
  • Dress them in light clothing
  • Sponge them with cool/tepid water
No samples of fever-reducing medication 
The Emergency Department does not have samples or take-home medications such as Tylenol and Advil.

Emergency

  • in a child less than 3 months old
  • repeated vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
  • vomiting or diarrhea containing large amount of blood
  • vomiting bright green
  • dehydration with dry mouth or no urine more than 12 hours
Not an emergency
  • vomiting or diarrhea less than 3-4 times a day
  • ongoing diarrhea after 'stomach flu' (this can last up to 2 weeks)

Emergency

  • head injury with loss of consciousness (passing out) or confusion
  • head injury with visible bump behind the ears, sides of the head, or back of the head
  • head injury with visible swelling and the child is less than 3 months old
  • fall more than 5 feet or 1.5 metres
  • cuts with gaping edges or continuing to bleed despite direct pressure
  • burns that blister and are larger than a Loonie
  • injury to arm or leg that looks crooked, causes inability to use the limb, or creates swelling that does not go down with ice and rest over 48 hours
  • eye injuries
  • injury causing chest or stomach pain
Not an emergency
  • minor head injuries (with no loss of consciousness, no confusion and no vomiting)
  • mild head injuries with normal behavior within 4 hours of injury and bumps (even large) to the forehead
  • scrapes and bruises where the injured part can still be used
  • sun burns

Emergency

  • ‎Fever with a rash that looks like either blisters or bruises that don't turn white or fade when you push on them
Not an emergency
  • recurring rashes or skin problems
  • rashes with cough and cold symptoms, if the child looks well
  • mild hives that respond to antihistamines without difficulty breathing or throat/tongue swelling

‎If your child ingests a chemical, medication or poison, call the poison control centre at 1 (800) 567-8911. 


Come to emergency if directed by them. 

Wait times for emergency departments

If you're coming to our emergency department, please be considerate of waiting room space when possible. We ask that just one parent or guardian accompany a child/youth seeking care.

You can find out wait times for emergency departments in Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore. 


Directions and parking 

The emergency department is located near entrance 55. See the Children's and Women's wayfinding map

Our directions and parking page has information about parking rates, transportation options and other maps. 

BC Children's Hospital emergency department entrance


What to expect

Triage vs. line-up

We are committed to ensuring that every child gets the care they need and the most urgent patients are attended to first. 

Our emergency department triage system, which manages patients based on illness severity, is different than the typical “line-up” some families might expect. In the emergency department, the most ill patients are seen as a priority.

We thank the patients and families seeking care at BC Children’s Hospital for their patience and for being kind and respectful to our staff.

Infection control

If your child has been exposed to one of the following, please report directly to the nurse’s station desk upon entering the emergency department:

  • Chickenpox
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • MRSA
  • COVID-19

At each entrance, you will be asked a few questions, regarding any illness symptoms, recent travel, possible COVID exposure, and offered direction. A hand cleaning station is available. You will also be offered a medical mask to wear.  

Keep your children close to you

To ensure the safety of your children, please keep them with you at all times.
Specialists

 The emergency department cannot expedite referrals to specialists.



Other care options

If your child does not require emergency care, you may want to explore these other care options.

Urgent and primary care centres 

Urgent and primary care centres are for people with same-day, non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses when you are unable to see a family doctor or health care provider. 

Mental health services 

Poisoning 

If your child ingests a chemical, medication or poison, call the poison control centre at 1 (800) 567-8911. Come to emergency if directed by them. 

Common conditions for children

Learn about common childhood conditions. These HealthLink BC resources may provide information about symptoms, prevention and home treatment. 

COVID-19 testing 

Refer to the BCCDC website on where to find rapid antigen tests, PCR tests and private testing clinics.

Preventing the spread of respiratory disease 

There are also things we can all do to help prevent the spread of all respiratory illness this season. These include:

  • Get all recommended vaccines including influenza and COVID-19 booster vaccine doses.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell and try to avoid spending time with people at higher risk of serious illness.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette: wear a mask in indoor public spaces (if you choose), cough and sneeze in your elbow.
  • Clean your hands regularly and avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose.



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