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When to go to the Emergency Room?

April 21, 2017 at midnight

You wake up in the early hours of the morning, suddenly having difficulty breathing. Or maybe your child is running a high fever and vomiting. What should you do? The emergency room is expensive, but what if something is very, very wrong and a visit to ER is warranted? If you recognize your problem as a minor illness and aren't experiencing any life-threatening symptoms like high fever or vomiting, you can make an appointment with your primary care physician. If you have a minor illness or minor injury outside your doctor's business hours, or if a timely appointment is unavailable, urgent care or walk-in clinics can be a convenient substitute. However, it's important to understand that urgent care workers are not prepared to deal with a real emergency.

It's important to get to an emergency room as quickly as possible if you have been seriously injured or are experiencing symptoms associated with a severe or life-threatening illness. If you experience any of the following, you should go to the emergency room immediately—by ambulance, if need be.

1. Symptoms of a Heart Attack

According to the CDC, 735,000 Americans suffer heart attacks every year. If left untreated, heart attacks are often fatal, and urgent care clinics are not equipped to treat cardiac symptoms. Call 9-1-1 and head to the emergency room immediately if you experience: severe chest pain or pressure, sudden dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, sweating, or pain radiating to the neck, jaw, or arms. Women often experience different symptoms, being less likely to have chest, left arm, or jaw pain. This causes many women to mistake heart attack symptoms for indigestion, heartburn, or low blood sugar, so women should be watchful for the other symptoms as well.

2. Symptoms of Stroke

A stroke occurs when brain cells begin to die due to blood flow being cut off to a section of the brain. Strokes are extremely dangerous, being the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Call 9-1-1 and go to the emergency room if you experience sudden numbness on one side of your face or body, loss of sight in one or both eyes, unexpected dizziness or loss of balance, or sudden, excruciating headache. Other symptoms include unexplained difficulty or inability to speak, walk, or move, or being suddenly weak or drooping on one side of the body.

3. Serious Injury

Anytime you suffer an injury or trauma that could be disabling or life-threatening if left untreated, you should go to the emergency room immediately. Most people know that broken bones, injuries to the head, neck, or spine, or dislocated joints are serious injuries that should be handled in the hospital. It is important to be aware that any fall or injury can be life threatening if you are taking blood-thinning medication or have a bleeding disorder. You should also go directly to the emergency room if you sustain an electric shock, deep wounds that bleed heavily or serious burns.

4. Other emergency symptoms

There are far too many life-threatening illnesses to list in a single article, but any of these should be attended to in ER:

  • Lack of or difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained seizure
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • High fever
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Altered mental state or confusion
  • Severe pain of any kind
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Sudden vision change or loss
  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Blood in urine or stool.

Don't delay; your life—or that of a loved one—could depend on it.


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