- Children's Hospital Emergency Department
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Pediatric Emergency Department

The Scott M. Niswonger Pediatric Emergency Department is open for all types of emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Emergency Department at East Tennessee Children's Hospital provides highly specialized, emergency care for infants, children and teens. Because we treat more children needing emergency care than anyone else in East Tennessee, our doctors and nurses are equipped to treat everything from minor injuries to major medical concerns. We understand we are caring for patients who need a special kind of treatment - not only to make them well, but to also make them feel comfortable and safe.

Our dedicated medical team is led by a group of board-certified pediatric emergency medicine doctors. And our nurses and other team members all have special interest, knowledge and skill in the emergency medical care of children. Our Emergency Department team works closely with all other specialty departments in the hospital, including radiology, surgery and child life services, to provide coordinated, comprehensive and child-friendly care.

"We know that emergency department visits are scary and we have staff that's specially trained in trying to alleviate that discomfort." -Dr. Ryan Redman, M.D.


We handle more than 72,000 emergency visits a year - averaging 200 patients each day - and are ready to treat children 24/7, 365 days a year. In our Emergency Department, children are protected from potentially frightening adult emergencies and inappropriate situations. Non-urgent patients are sent to a separate area within the Emergency Department during evenings and weekends.

As a parent, you never want to think of your child being injured. However, if your child is involved in an accident, he needs emergency care quickly and in an environment that's best suited for him. But how do you know if your child needs to go to the doctor or the hospital? The staff at East Tennessee Children's Hospital's Emergency Department offers the following advice for when a child should see their primary care provider or be taken immediately to Children's Hospital's Emergency Department.


Emergency Department

When to Come to East Tennessee Children's Hospital Emergency Department

Children's Hospital Emergency Department is more appropriate than a doctor's office for sudden and serious situations such as:

  • A head injury that has caused loss of consciousness, vomiting or problems with balance or coordination
  • An injury that has caused numbness, tingling or paleness in an extremity
  • An injury that may need an X-ray
  • Complications related to a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or asthma
  • Difficulty breathing, gasping for breath, faster breathing, or noisier breathing than usual
  • For an infant from birth to three months, any change in color, especially paleness or bluish color around the mouth and in the face

We have the only emergency facilities in the city to offer the services of Child Life Specialists who help our patients cope with the anxiety of being in the Emergency Department. They are there to distract children during painful procedures, talk a child and his family through each aspect of treatment and be an advocate for the child throughout his stay. We also have translation services available 24/7 to help anyone coming to Children's Hospital to fully understand a child's condition and treatment.

Our young patients also benefit from our Emergency Department designed specifically with children in mind. The decor is kid-friendly, which helps children feel more comfortable during their hospital visit. Unlike adult hospitals, our Emergency Department has equipment made to fit growing bodies - from smaller needles and anesthesia masks to breathing tubes and blood pressure cuffs. In fact, many young patients who are initially taken to nearby adult hospitals are then transferred to Children's Hospital because we are better equipped to handle their special needs.

When to See Your Primary Care Provider

There are certain signs and symptoms to look for in children that are a reason to call a doctor. But keep in mind that whenever your child has a symptom that concerns you, you should not hesitate to call your child's regular doctor even if the symptom does not appear on the lists below.

Birth to 3 Months
  • A high fever
  • "Pink eye"
  • Redness or tenderness around the navel area
  • Vomiting that continues for more than six hours
  • Diarrhea that occurs more than eight times a day
  • Stops feeding normally
  • Uncontrollable crying for an abnormally long time
3 Months to 1 Year
  • Temperature of 101 degrees in infants 3 to 6 months, or 104 degrees in children 6 months or older
  • Refusing to eat for several feedings
  • Unusual crankiness and irritability or unusual sleepiness
  • Any blood in the stool
1 Year to Adolescent
  • High fever
  • Chills and full-body shaking
  • Extreme sleepiness or unexplained lethargy
  • Unusual excitement or hysterical crying
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis of any part of the body
  • Seizures or severe headache
  • Earache, fluid discharge from the ear or sudden hearing loss
  • Severe sore throat, especially with trouble swallowing or speaking
  • Vomiting for 12 hours or more or vomiting of blood
  • Intense or unusual abdominal pain or a swollen or abnormally large abdomen
  • A sudden rash, crop of blotches or blisters, especially over a large area of the body

Although a trip to a hospital's emergency department is usually unexpected, there are a few things parents can do to prepare for a visit. Be sure to always have a child's Social Security number, current medication (dosage and schedule) and insurance information. This is good information to have available for your primary care provider as well. To help you maintain this information, you can download the Children's Hospital's mobile app to store your child's health information including updated medical records, allergy information, immunizations, emergency contacts and blood type.