When Should You Go To The Emergency Room?

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When an emergency situation arises, you know you need medical care and you need it fast. But what happens when you’re not sure if it’s a true emergency? Emergency rooms are designed for just that: emergencies. But people coming to emergency rooms that don’t actually have an emergency are a growing trend. This leads to higher wait times and higher costs for health care than what could have been done more cost effectively by a primary care provider.

While the answer of whether or not you should rush to the emergency room is not always clear, knowing the difference between emergency care and when to go to your primary care provider could help save your life, time, and money.

Here are some warning signs of a medical emergency according to the American Academy of Emergency Physicians. If one of these is occurring, you should go to the emergency room:

  • Chest pain that radiates or is accompanied by dizziness, nausea or shortness of breath 
  • Uncontrolled bleeding 
  • Sudden or severe pain 
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea leading to dehydration
  • Change in mental status such as confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Severe, persistent abdominal pain
  • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or changes in vision
  • High fever greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Allergic reactions (some are severe and may be life-threatening)
  • Broken bones
  • Animal bites (these can be significant in some cases)

Maintaining a consistent relationship with your primary care provider can help you decide whether or not your situation is considered an emergency. If you are encountering any of the following non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, then you should consult your primary care provider for further instructions on how to proceed with your course of treatment, rather than going to an emergency room:

  • Minor sprains and strains
  • Upper respiratory, ear, sinus, throat and skin infections
  • Minor burns
  • Minor injuries requiring cleaning or stitches
  • Painful urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Low-grade fever less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit