Is It a Real Emergency?
More than 100 million Americans visit the emergency room each year. Many of these people are victims of accidents, heart attacks and strokes. However, experts say that many ER visits are not true emergencies.
Before a true medical emergency strikes, know when to seek emergency medical treatment and how to prepare for a visit to the ER. If you have any doubts as to whether your condition is a medical emergency, speak with your doctor immediately, or call 911.
You should seek emergency medical treatment for the following conditions:
- Loss of consciousness
- Signs of heart attack (sudden chest pain with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness) that last two minutes or more
- Signs of a stroke (sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one sign of the body; difficulty speaking or understanding language; decreased or blurred vision in one or both eyes; sudden, severe headaches; unexplained loss of balance or dizziness)
- Severe shortness of breath
- Bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
- Sudden, severe pain
- Poisoning (call your local poison control center first and ask for immediate home treatment advice)
- A severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting, or to a medication, especially if breathing is difficult
- A major injury, such as a head trauma
- Unexplained stupor, drowsiness or disorientation
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings
- Broken bone
- Not being able to move or speak
The following conditions probably do not warrant a trip to the ER:
- Earache, colds, cough, sore throat, flu
- Minor cuts where bleeding is controlled
- A minor dog or animal bite where bleeding is controlled (but see your doctor)
- A muscle sprain
- A sunburn or minor burn from cooking
- An insect sting or delayed swelling from a sting (without breathing difficulty)
- A skin rash
- Low grade fever
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
“Although we often cannot predict when an emergency medical situation will occur, there are some things we can do to be better prepared, should the need arise,” says J.K., M.D., emergency medicine director at The Fort Hamilton Hospital. “Being prepared can help save precious time during an emergency, and it can help you handle it calmly, quickly and effectively.”
First, make sure you have a primary care physician who is available 24 hours a day (or shares call with colleagues) for urgent needs. Keep important medical information with you, containing the name and phone number of your regular doctor, any allergies or chronic medical conditions, and medications you take. This will be useful in case you are unconscious or are feeling too ill.
Make sure you know which emergency services are covered by your insurance and what instructions you need to follow in urgent situations. Also, some plans require notification within a few hours of being admitted or your treatment may not be covered.
Sources: Robert B’s Healthbeat on MSNBC
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