When Should You Go To The ER?
With all the conflicting advice out there, it can be difficult to know when an illness is serious enough to warrant a trip to the ER. Nobody likes to sit all night in a hospital just to wait for a doctor who may tell you that it wasn’t necessary to come in, but it’s natural to be concerned if you have certain symptoms or warning signs.
The American College of Emergency Physicians has made the guessing game a little easier by publishing a list of signs that may indicate a genuine medical emergency. If you are experiencing any of these, you should head to your nearest ER as quickly as possible rather than waiting for your next doctor’s appointment.
- Unusual vision changes that can’t be explained
- Sudden or severe pain of any kind
- Fainting, dizziness or sudden weakness
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or severe pain in the upper abdomen
- Vomiting or coughing up blood
- Suicidal thoughts
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea that has gone on for several days, leading to dehydration
- Feelings of confusion or a shift in mental status that can’t be attributed to another illness
- Unusual abdominal pain
- Having trouble speaking
If any of these symptoms apply to you, it’s important to call an ambulance or ask a trusted friend or family member to drive you to a hospital. Not all of these signs necessarily lead to a serious diagnosis, but they can indicate a medical emergency that could quickly escalate if prompt treatment isn’t received.
The decision whether or not to head to the ER can become a little more complicated if you are a parent. Small children may not be able to express themselves, so it can be hard to know exactly what is wrong with them without receiving medical attention.
Most parents err on the side of caution and take their children into the ER more frequently than may be necessary- this is certainly understandable, but it’s still important to be aware of which symptoms truly constitute a medical emergency.
The following warning signs could mean that a trip to the ER is necessary:
- Meningitis symptoms (stiff neck, high fever, severe headache, photosensitivity)
- Severe bleeding
- Head trauma (small children fall over frequently, but a bad bump to the head may need closer attention)
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting or diarrhea that has led to dehydration symptoms
- Very high fever
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Changes in fontanel in babies, either sunken or bulging
- Sudden change in behavior or confusion
- Sudden dizziness or weakness
If the illness or accident occurs during office hours and you are able to contact your child’s doctor, it’s always wise to give them a call first to ask for further advice. They may be able to recognize and treat the illness themselves without wasting your time at the ER, or they may recommend a hospital visit.