Going to the ER…Now.

Emergency rooms are designed for people with injuries and illnesses which require immediate care. Still, some question whether it is appropriate to go the ER or wait until Monday, or their next doctor’s appointment.

Top 10 reasons to go immediately to the nearest emergency room:

1. Major loss of blood

Bleeding is a sign.

Any condition which bleeds for more than five minutes or results in a loss of more than one pint of blood must be immediately treated by a physician. Cuts which are more than one half inch in width or depth, are located on the head or expose muscle or nerves should be treated with sutures.

Nosebleeds which last more than ten minutes require emergent care. Blunt force injuries, like car accidents and falls from more than ten feet, which could cause internal bleeding require immediate attention.

2. Chest pain

If not diagnosed as stable angina, persistent or recurrent chest pain should be treated at an emergency room. Chest pain which restricts movement or is atypical of muscle injury from exertion or has changed from routine chest pain needs immediate attention. Those with a history of heart disease should seek emergency care for chest pain.

3. Shortness of breath or asthma attack

17M+ Americans have asthma.

If an asthma action plan does not relieve shortness of breath or the following symptoms appear, seek emergency care:

  • Your asthma medication does not relieve symptoms.
  • You feel better after medication, but serious symptoms return quickly.
  • Lips or fingernails have a blue or gray tint.
  • You have difficulty walking or talking from shortness of breath.

If diagnosed with COPD or emphysema, shortness of breath can be an exacerbation. Seek emergency care if symptoms are atypical.

In the event of any allergic reaction which causes shortness of breath or swelling of the lips or throat, seek emergency care immediately, as these symptoms can be life threatening.

4. Insect, rodent or mammal bites

Rodents bite more often than dogs.

In the event of a bite by a rodent or any domestic animal, like a dog, go to the emergency room to begin observation for rabies. Insect bites are normally characterized by mild swelling and pain, itching and redness.

While these typical symptoms should be treated with an ice pack and over the counter antihistamine, severe symptoms triggered by allergy should be treated with emergency care. Go to the emergency room if any of these life-threatening symptoms develop:

  • Swelling of the lips or throat.
  • Dizziness or confusion.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal cramps.
  • Cramps surrounding the bite site.

5. Stroke

All sudden symptoms of stroke should be treated immediately to prevent death and reduce long term effects. Stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or inability to understand.
  • Sudden inability to speak.
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination or difficulty walking.
  • Sudden severe headache which has no apparent cause or trigger.

6. Broken bones

Do not wait.

Broken bones should be set back into place and immobilized immediately to prevent improper healing which can result in loss of mobility or function of distal appendages. An improperly treated broken arm can lead to loss of the hand on that arm.

Symptoms of a broken bone are uneven texture along the length of the bone, immediate bruising and/or swelling, extreme tenderness, loss of function beyond the break or flaccidity, and inability to support normal pressure.

Broken bones can be set in most orthopedic physician’s offices. Call your orthopedic physician to decide where to be treated.

7. Poisoning

Especially in children, any ingestion of poisonous substances, including large quantities of alcohol, should be treated with emergency care. If you are unsure how much poison has been ingested or the time of the poisoning, call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) or 911 prior to leaving for the emergency room for professional advice. In some poisonings, death can occur before you reach the hospital.

8. Loss of consciousness

Regardless of the reason, all losses of consciousness should be reported to the emergency room. The patient will be examined for obvious triggers, such as head trauma, and eliminate more uncommon causes, like allergic reaction.

One too many can be an overdose.

9. Overdose

Whether of prescription or illegal drugs, all overdoses should be treated with emergency care. Any overdose which results in loss of consciousness must be treated immediately.

Fever is a symptom and a cause.

10. Temperature over 103 degrees

Fevers over 103 degrees are normally associated with severe infection or sepsis, a condition which is fatal if untreated. Very high temperatures can cause brain, heart and lung damage. Consult your physician about all temperatures over 100 degrees. Only seek emergency care for fevers over 103 degrees.

If you have a combination of symptoms which cannot be explained or are in severe pain, call a local medical advice hot line to see if you should go to the emergency room for immediate care.


Disclaimer: Information in this blog is not intended to preclude, replace, negate or supersede the advice of a health care professional. Information is provided to encourage open dialogue between readers and qualified health care professionals. See full disclaimer in The Office located on the top menu bar.


When was your last trip to the emergency room? Was it for one of the above? Do you have the number to Poison Control listed prominently in your home or programmed into your telephones?

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2008-2012
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  1. Great post! I would like to interject one thing though. For a lot of people, especially small town Canada, there are just not enough (and in many cases, none) family doctors. No matter the problem, people have to go to the hospital to seek medical advice/treatment. Where I live, the average ER wait time is about 14-18 hours, and it increases every time an ambulance pulls up.

    When i had an Empyema last year, I had to wait about 14 hours (with a temperature of 103.5 F) – there were many people worse off than me waiting, seniors, kids, babies crying… doctors leave us for the US, leaving people scrambling – family doctors have limits on the number of patients they can have, so ERs are overly busy. Who says universal health care is the best option? But, then again, everyone deserves the best medical treatment, whether they can afford it or not…

    • I agree about deserving top med care regardless of money. As to the long waits, there are steps to take to avoid some of the above situations, except of course in accidental settings…like head trauma. A general purpose idea of how the body works and misfires always helps stay out of the ER. Red.

  2. I had to go to the hospital for heart problems – as directed by my doctor’s receptionist (Marvelous how receptionists can know better than the doctor what you need, diagnosing your condition over the phone!) – only to get a roasting from my doctor for doing so instead of going to him…

    Needless to say I was diagnosed with atypical Arrythmia so the trip wasn’t wasted.

    We have a good NHS, with care delivered at the point of need, but the Tory’s are trying to privatise it so they can make money off it instead of paying via our taxes for a desperately needed resource…

    Love and hugs! 🙂


    • Glad the trip was not wasted, but there is much good to come from seeing your private doctor first. {HUGZ} Red.

  3. Excuse me…you left out #11: Meet cute doctors. Not for me of course.

    • Probably should have put that one in for all the divorcees and singles in the group. How thoughtless of me!

  4. bear

     /  January 10, 2012

    I am on the hospital’s Christmas list, last time was to reconstruct my arm, I have a wing named after me. I am the reason the hospital staff all got raises. My surgeon got a new BMW. All I got was scars and bills!

  5. And the men reading this post are thinking, yeah, if you’re a woman lol.

    • ROFL!!! You know, we even ask directions to know which driveway to take, too! Good thing we do not have to reapply for a “Man Card” every year!!!


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