When to visit the emergency room
By Dr. Shayne White / Abilene Families Special Contributor
In times of crisis, a visit to the emergency room can be the difference between life and death. In hospitals around the country and here in our own community, qualified caregivers are on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week to address the urgent medical needs of you and your family.
In events such as serious injuries or allergic reactions, the ER is the most appropriate place to go for care. Emergency rooms are in direct contact with ambulance providers and emergency services, and are a vital link in a community’s first response network.
The ER uses a triage system to care for patients with the most urgent conditions first, rather than treating patients on a first-come, first-served basis. Patients with potentially life-threatening conditions such as a chest pain, shortness of breath or sudden or unexplained loss of consciousness are treated immediately while someone with a minor cut or sore throat may have to wait longer.
It is sometimes difficult to determine whether a visit to the ER is necessary or not. How do you know when a medical issue is an emergency? According to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act – legislation that guides hospitals in providing appropriate emergency room care – a medical event is an emergency if the health of the individual is in serious jeopardy, there is a serious impairment of bodily functions or there is a serious impairment of a bodily organ. Some of the conditions generally regarded as medical emergencies include:
-- Severe injury
-- Signs of a heart attack, such as pressure or pain in the chest
-- Signs of a stroke, such as severe numbness and loss of vision
-- Bleeding or vomiting that will not stop
-- Severe shortness of breath
-- Severe disorientation
-- Medical condition in a child less than six months of age
If you believe your health or the health of a loved one is in jeopardy, it is always best to seek immediate treatment.
Because emergency room visits are nearly always unexpected, it is wise to keep insurance policy information and personal identification nearby at all times. Make a list of your allergies as well as any current or previous medications you are taking and include contact information for your personal physician(s). You should also be familiar with your medical history, including your blood type and any previous or chronic conditions you have experienced.
In the event of an emergency, a visit to the ER can save your life or the life of a loved one. Experiencing a medical emergency can be frightening, and one way to help minimize concern is to seek preventative care.
Making regular visits to the doctor and having an in-depth knowledge of you and your family’s medical history can help to avoid medical emergencies or identify a medical issue before it become serious. Schedule an appointment with your physician to have a routine check up and discuss your medical history.
National Center for Health Statistics
Centers for Disease Control