What to throw in a bag to head to the Emergency Department

As a parent, the thought of rushing your child to an emergency department is most likely incredibly stressful. By definition, if you are heading to an emergency department with your little one, there often won’t be much time to prepare what you need to take.

We hope that after reading this, you might remember in the back of your mind some of these tips and recommendations of what to take with you to the emergency department to help make the trip with your little one a little bit easier. 

At the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, approximately 90,000 infants, children and young adults are treated at the emergency department per year alone* Therefore, as paediatric emergency nurses, we think it may help to have some tips on what to get together if you find yourselves needing to head to hospital. 

Whilst the health care team always endeavour to minimise wait times, and will always see and treat the sickest children first, often wait times are a reality of presenting to an emergency department, so it's ideal to have the following items packed for your visit. 

Important items:

  • Medicare card/private health details 
  • Any relevant health documents such as referrals or a health history
  • My health, learning and development book, better known as your child’s “green book” in Victoria
  • Any regular medications your child takes 

Comfort items:

  • Your child’s favourite comforter, toy or blanket 
  • Some other toys, books, phone or tablet to help keep your child occupied during potential wait times. If packing a phone or tablet, charging cords are integral!
  • A pram or carrier can be helpful for babies or toddlers (keep in mind if choosing a carrier, that this can be difficult for a health professional to assess your child and you may be asked to remove them for an assessment). 

Food and drinks:

  • Your child’s favourite foods/snacks/drinks. This will help prevent hunger and dehydration whilst waiting. In many presentations, the hospital staff may wish to ensure your child is eating and drinking, and they are most likely to do this with familiar options. If you think that your child might need to be sedated or need an operation, be sure to check in with staff before offering food and fluids. 
  • Expressed breast milk, formula & bottles if required.


  • A spare change of clothes for your child and also for you. A children’s emergency department is no stranger to bodily fluids - sick children, procedures and being in a new environment can equate to dirty clothes for both of you. 
  • Nappies and wipes 

Your voice…

  • To advocate for your child. If you are concerned about your child’s condition or if there is a change, tell the health professionals in the area. You know your child best, and your concerns will always be taken seriously. 

We all hope we don’t need to present to an emergency department with our children, however now if this does occur, you may remember some of these items to take with you. 

Lastly, if you forget any of these items or do not have any time to get anything together to get to hospital, please do not panic, emergency departments do have essential supplies, they may just not be the specifics your child is accustomed to.

As always, information on this website is for educational purposes only. Please consult your GP for information specific to your child.


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