No one ever plans on being in a car accident or having a heart attack. But accidents and unexpected illnesses can, and do, happen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 339,000 Americans are treated in emergency departments across the country every day.
Those who arrive in the emergency room (ER) by ambulance usually have a life-threatening condition that requires rapid transportation so they can receive care upon arrival. Others who come by car or on foot will be treated based on the severity of their illnesses or injuries, not on a first come, first serve basis.
Some situations clearly require emergency medical attention, such as a stroke. But other cases are not so clear cut. What about a swollen ankle, unexplained fever, or puncture wound? The American College of Emergency Physicians offers a list of symptoms that indicate a medical emergency, including:
- Problems breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or upper abdomen
- Vision changes
- Disorientation or confusion
- Sudden or severe pain
- Bleeding that doesn't stop
- Persistent vomiting
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Suicidal feelings
- Unusual abdominal pain
If you believe you are having a medical emergency, go to the ER or call 9-1-1 if the condition is life-threatening or the person's condition may worsen on the way to the hospital. It is important to be aware that some conditions may seem minor, but could become serious if not treated. In situations that may or may not be a medical emergency, call your doctor's office first or go to a walk-in clinic.
A walk-in clinic also may be called a minor emergency, urgent care or immediate care center. They do not require appointments and are often open evenings and weekends. Walk-in clinics are good options if you do not need the high level of care provided in an ER, but instead have a minor emergency such as a cut that requires stitches, sore throat, sprained ankle, or other illnesses that are not life-threatening.
If you do have to go the ER, be prepared. Bring a list of current medications, including how long the medicine has been taken and how often. Include a list of allergies as well as a medical history form if you have one. If possible, call your primary care physician ahead of time so they can order lab work if needed or alert ER staff about your condition. If going to the ER with your child, bring an immunization record and a comfort item to help soothe your child.
When going to the ER for medical emergencies that are not life-threatening, you also may want to bring something to read and money for snacks or a soft drink. Try to remain calm so you are better able to communicate with the doctors and nurses who are there to care for you or a loved one.
Tired of spending hours in a stuffy, overcrowded ER waiting room? Frye Regional Medical Center has a solution with InQuickER. This is an emergency room service that facilitates patient satisfaction by allowing consumers to hold a place at the ER online, while waiting in the comfort of their own homes.
Now you can hold your place online at Frye Regional Medical Center by paying a fee, completing an online form, and arriving at the projected treatment time. You will be seen by a health professional in the emergency room within 15 minutes, or InQuickER will refund your online fee in full. The new service is only intended for individuals who have non-life threatening medical conditions.