RVing as a family is great. Until one of your kids has an emergency.

Then it can feel like a disaster!

Most full time traveling families are far away from their primary care doctors when emergencies arise. You can’t just call for advice on when and where to go for treatment.

Luckily, there are urgent care centers in most areas unless you are remotely boondocking. (But more on that later.)

Urgent care centers are great for minor illnesses such as colds or injuries like sprains. Of course, more serious ailments will require a trip to the closest emergency department (ED) however.

When to seek emergency care

emergency room entrance

The great thing about Emergency Departments is they never close.

If you’re unsure what is happening to your child or where to go for help, you can always seek out the closest Emergency Department.

Sometimes ailments are so serious that an ambulance should be summoned for your child. 911 should be called if your child has any of the following:

  • Choking episode
  • Difficulty breathing or stops breathing or turns blue
  • Having a seizure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Bleeding that is not controlled
  • Suspected neck or spinal injury
  • Any serious injury

Whether at an Urgent Care Center or an ED, children should be checked by a doctor for any of the following also:

  • High fevers, especially if not relieved with acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea with signs of dehydration
  • Bleeding
  • Accidents with head injuries
  • Possible broken or dislocated bones
  • Troubled breathing with wheezing
  • Poisoning
  • Animal bites
  • Anything that is a serious medical concern to you

What to bring to the Emergency Department

child in hospital bed with teddy bear

Does your child have a special blanket or favorite toy? Don’t forget it! It will provide much-needed comfort and a sense of security to your child.

Bring a book to read to your child or an activity to keep them busy like a coloring book during those long wait times.

This is especially true if you must bring other children with you. The waiting room of the ED is never a fun place to be. So if you can afford it, take a few extra seconds to gather up some toys and distractions for the family.

You could be waiting a while depending on the severity of your child’s illness or emergency.

Having a well-packed diaper bag or backpack with all those extras will save your sanity as well.

Are you bringing a baby or toddler? Chances are you’ll need a change of clothes for them. They might vomit or have an accident. Your child’s bottle or sippy cup should be packed in your travel bag, too.

Now this might all seem obvious, but in an emergency it can be really hard to think straight!

Let’s recap:

  • Change of clothes (or two) for your sick child
  • Diapers (if applicable, of course)
  • Favorite toy, blankie, security item
  • A game or extra toy if you think you’ll be there a while
  • Bottle, sippy cup, etc

If your child is very sick and has the possibility of needing admission to the hospital, then bring a bag for yourself with your clothes, medications and personal items.

Things you should pack for yourself and the rest of the family:

  • Cell phone charger
  • Mints (your throat can get really dry when at the ED for an extended amount of time)
  • Aleve (for your back from sitting in those uncomfortable chairs too long!)
  • Extra warm blanket if you’re the type that gets cold
  • Cash for the vending machines and hospital cafeteria
  • Toys/games for the other kids to stay distracted while waiting

Your Child’s Medical Information

Does your child take medications regularly?

When coming to the ED, it is important to bring a list of all routine daily medications your child takes. And if you’ve been giving him anything prior to coming in for medical treatment? That should be included, too.

This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Your list should also include:

  • your child’s allergies (food, medication, etc)
  • complete history of medical conditions (past and present)
  • any surgeries your child has undergone
  • your child’s immunization records is also very helpful

Last, keep your child’s regular pediatrician’s name and contact information. This is really helpful when prior medical records are needed by the Emergency Department staff.

Don’t wait to complete this list until an emergency happens! If you’re reading this right now and you’re not on your way to the ED… make the list now!

This list will make your emergency visit so much easier!

Have it completed and updated each time medical care has been performed. Keep this information in a safe and easily accessible place (and with your health insurance cards) for when the time comes.

Hospital Reminders

overhead view of things you would find in hospital with doctor's hand filling out a chart

Remember healthcare professionals really do have your family’s best interest at heart.

Yes. It seems like forever when you’re waiting in the Emergency Department. Everyone is getting helped before you. And your kid is really sick!

Wait time is truly an unfortunate side effect of the ED. But try to keep in mind everything being done is a process and takes time.

The professionals on staff are doing their best to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being.

Your child is likely to cry. A lot.

Unfortunately, sometimes children require unpleasant procedures to diagnose and treat their illness. This can include blood work or intravenous (IV) fluids.

It’s normal for your child to cry.

Be as calm as you can and supportive of your child. You are their security and they will follow your lead.

Ask questions.

If you don’t understand what you is going on, ask questions.

If you really have no clue what is being talked about, ask for more information.

And it’s 100% okay to forget what you’ve been told or what a doctor or nurse said. Ask for another explanation.

Under stress, most people only remember ten percent of what has been said. Healthcare professionals expect you to ask again. And again.

Check with a nurse before feeding your child.

In some cases, sedation or surgery can be necessary. This will be delayed if your child eats or drinks. Just to be safe, check with a nurse before giving your child food or water.

Avoid letting your child crawl on the floor.

For some of you germaphobes, this one might be obvious. But in a stressful situation, it can be easy to let kids do things we normally wouldn’t. However…

Floors get mopped in the Emergency Department rooms between patients but nurses and doctors do not change shoes in between patients.

And they walk through a lot of yucky stuff during those twelve hour shifts!

Think about it…

Boondocking: Planning for an Emergency

One of the coolest parts of RVing is the ability to boondock out in the middle of nowhere.

If you find yourself headed out to the great outdoors, just make sure you follow these steps to ensure you’re able to easily act in the case of a family emergency:

  1. Always have a fully stocked first aid kit on board with you.
  2. Once your location for boondocking is known, look for the closest Urgent Care and Emergency Department. Jot down their addresses and phone numbers. Make note of how far from your location they are. And how long it will take you to get there. DO NOT just save these in your phone. It’s important for this to be physically written down in an area where any member of the family can easily access in an emergency.
  3. Look up the route from your boondocking location to the ED. Write down the directions. Again, DO NOT just save this information on your phone.

Final Tips

Here are some final tips for traveling families to ensure they are safe out there and prepared in case of an emergency.

  • Google the availability of emergency medical care in an area before arriving. Make it part of your travel planning routine.
  • Upon arrival, ask locals in the area or people around your RV park where they go for medical care
  • Check with your health insurance carrier to see facilities they recommend in a certain area
  • Remain calm if something does happen to your child. I’ve said it before, but it’s that important!

Remember, you probably won’t need to use the facility but it’s great information to have if it is needed.

Have you ever had an emergency on the road?

How did you handle it?

Join The Virtual Campground

Become the newest member of TVC and gain instant and exclusive access to my library of resources.

You'll get ebooks, tips, videos, and resources on topics like RVing with kids and pets, getting internet on the road, and RV maintenance.

More information added every month. Yep. All for free, baby.

I won't spam you or sell your information of any Nigerian Prince. Promise. Powered by ConvertKit

2 thoughts on “An RVer’s Guide to Family Medical Emergencies

  1. Sound advice. I suppose being prepared will take some of the edge off of a medical emergency. And that matters.

    1. So true Robert! Thanks for reading and stopping by the comment section. I think it’s so important to be prepared…especially as travelers. You just never know and it’s so hard to keep things straight when you’re stressed!

Leave a Reply