AIM:Despite increasing rates of emergency department (ED) utilisation, little is known about low-acuity presentations in children ≤5 years. The aims of the study were to estimate the proportion and cost of low-acuity presentations in children ≤5 years presenting to the ED and to determine the relative effect of socio-economic status (SES) on paediatric low-acuity presentations at the ED. METHODS:This is a retrospective observational study of children ≤5 years presenting to the Cairns Hospital ED over 4 years. A multivariate logistic regression model was used to assess the association between SES and low-acuity presentations. Cost of low-acuity presentations was calculated based on triage score and admission status, using costs obtained from the National Hospital Cost Data Collection. RESULTS:A total of 23 086 children were included in the study, of whom 56.7% were male (mean age = 1.85 ± 1.63 years). Approximately one-third of ED visits were low-acuity presentations (32.4%), and low-acuity presentations increased progressively with SES. In multivariate analysis, children from families with very high SES were twice as likely to have a low-acuity presentation (odds ratio 2.17; 95% confidence interval, 1.66-2.85). Low-acuity ED presentations cost the health-care system in excess of A$895 000-A$1 110 000 per year. CONCLUSIONS:These findings demonstrate that a significant proportion of paediatric ED visits are of low acuity and that these visits yield a substantial cost to the health system. Further research is required regarding care givers' rationale and potentially other reasons underlying these low-acuity ED presentations.