Emergency situations are traumatizing for adults, but the impact that they have on children can carry lifelong implications as they are still growing and developing. Situations where trauma is present can shape children’s thoughts on first responders, Emergency Medical Technicians, ambulances and more.

To help children involved in emergency situations – injured or not – Wisconsin Emergency Medical Service for Children (EMSC) developed pediatric comfort kits to be used within emergency departments and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) agencies. Each year, EMSC distributes over 300 comfort kits to EMS agencies and emergency departments across Wisconsin.

Donna Flannery, an Emergency Medical Responder and Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator (PECC) at South Wayne Fire and First Response, uses a comfort kit in her EMS agency to help children during emergency calls.

Donna Flannery ,Emergency Medical Responder and Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator (PECC) at South Wayne Fire and First Response.

“There was a time when we had a call for a young child that fell backward and hit their head, and there were two other children at the scene,” Flannery said. “Right away I grabbed the comfort kit and grabbed three light up spinners.”

As the incident unfolded, each of the young children were able to benefit from the comfort kit. Flannery explains that the patient’s sister, who was uninjured, was entertained by the light up spinners as well as the youngest child, who was distracted by the bright spinning light. Treating an injured child is difficult as they are going through a range of emotions, but young patients can be distracted by different toys in the comfort kits to help make treatment easier.

Caring for children, in general, isn’t easy. Children aren’t just small adults and they require different equipment, medication dosages, communication tactics and more. When an EMS agency receives a pediatric call, Flannery explains, there’s a mix of emotions felt by providers.

“As adults, we’re used to treating adults and having a child thrown into calls elevates everything like blood pressure, anxiety and adrenaline,” she said. “But just like any call, we want to be able to help. As a first responder we wonder if we’re doing the right thing and if what we’re doing is going to help and hinder, and we aren’t as used to treating pediatric patients, but we want to help them just as much.”

Every child responds differently to a variety of toys and distractions, which is why comfort kits provided by Wisconsin EMSC come with a wide range of toys for EMS agencies and emergency departments.

Wisconsin EMSC comfort kits come with:

  • Assortment of balls: distraction
  • Book: distraction and soothing
  • Bubbles: distraction
  • Glitter stick: distraction
  • Light up balls: distraction
  • Light up turning circle wand: distraction
  • Paci­fers: soothing
  • Shot blocker: reduce injection pain
  • Stickers: distraction

“Emergency providers at EMS agencies and emergency departments want to provide the best possible care to children, while making sure they feel safe and secure,” says Erica Kane, WI EMSC project manager. “The variety of items and toys in the comfort kit can help soothe and distract children during emergencies. We hear from providers that the light up turning circle wands are the most popular item but simple items like pacifiers come in handy for when emergency providers are caring for their youngest patients. WI EMSC is so thrilled that our emergency providers have found that the comfort kits help young children in emergency situations.”