Having lost my “ER viriginity” this year, once for each child, I know how stressful a visit to the ER can be. Given that neither of my kids had major, life-threatening conditions and were not admitted, though, for me it was more annoying and day-wrecking than lastingly traumatic, and the same is true of my kids.
For parents whose children experienced a more serious injury, though, the effects can be serious and long-lasting. New research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that one month after a child’s injury, 37 percent of parents exhibited acute stress disorder or significant traumatic stress symptoms. Six months after the injury, 15 percent showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Symptoms included re-experiencing the incident, avoiding reminders of it, and general anxiety or jumpiness.
Parents who were present when their child was hurt, who perceived their child to be in pain or thought that their child’s life was in danger were more likely to have severe and persistent symptoms. If a parent had themselves experienced trauma, they were also more likely to develop PTSD.
Those who were showing severe traumatic symptoms one month after the injury were much more likely to have PTSD six months down the line, researchers said. And parents whose children were in poorer physical health six month after the injury or whose children themselves had severe acute stress after the injury also were more likely to show PTSD symptoms.
The bottom line, say researchers, is to focus on emotional recovery for both parents and children after an injury, as well as on restoring the child to the best possible physical health. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a website, AftertheInjury.org, with tips on things like managin hospital visits, making the transition to home, and ways parents can cope.