-Cedar Crest in Salisbury Township opened the region's first children's emergency room this week.
The 12-bed children's ER is part of the regular emergency room but has a separate waiting area for children that is designed to alleviate children's anxiety of being sick and in a hospital, according to hospital spokesman Brian Downs.
"Doctors will tell you, treating little kids is not like treating little adults," Downs said. "Everyone comes in scared."
One way of alleviating children's anxiety when they come to a hospital is by separating them from older, sick adults, which can be frightening to children who are already scared and in an alien environment, he said.
The environment is designed to be kid-friendly and welcoming. The unit has features such as a mechanical toy Ferris wheel behind glass they can operate with a push of a button and interactive displays. The Ferris wheel was donated by Toy Magic which used to have a store in Bethlehem.
The special care extends beyond the physical environment, but attends to special psycho-social and medical needs of children in an ER. The unit is staffed with specialists in pediatrics. Children, who are often terrified of needles, are given special treatments to lessen their fear, which could include the use nitrous oxide or special creams, Downs said.
The need for a special children's ER in the region has been growing, he said. About 15,000 children visit Lehigh Valley Hospital's emergency room, and that number is expected to double in the next few years, Downs said. The closest children's ER has been in Philadelphia.
Lehigh Valley Hospital's children's ER will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the prime time children use the ER, Downs said.