Knowing When to Visit the ER
It’s 2 a.m., your husband wakes you complaining of chest pains. He is perspiring and short of breath. Do you call 911? Head to the ER yourselves? Wait until morning? Knowing when to visit the ER can make all the difference in your recovery. Many of us are reluctant to make that call, afraid of appearing foolish if it turns out to be only indigestion. ER doctors offer the following guidelines on when to go or call 911 ... and when to wait.
WAIT OR go to the ER?
In cases such as a heart attack or stroke, every second counts. It can mean the difference between making a full recovery and becoming permanently impaired. A trip to the ER ensures that the proper medication is administered within the appropriate amount of time. With cuts, prompt treatment will prevent infections and promote healing. In other emergencies, prompt medical treatment can significantly impact your outcome. If you aren’t sure whether or not your medical emergency requires a visit to the ER, first consult with your primary care physician or call the ER for advice.
List Your Medication.
“If you do have to visit the ER, I recommend that you bring a list of your medications –or better yet, bring all your prescriptions and other medications you may be taking. Also, write down immunizations and any known allergies,” says Sam Ockner, MD, an ER physician at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. Most importantly, try to remain calm and confident that you are in good hands.
Certain medical conditions or symptoms require an immediate trip to the ER
- Chest pain or discomfort; nausea; shortness of breath (signs of possible heart attack)
- Numbness in the face, arm or leg; sudden confusion; dizziness; blurred vision (signs of possible stroke)
- Broken bones
- Severe cuts with uncontrolled bleeding
- Major burns
- Severe allergic reactions to foods or insects
- High fever that can’t be controlled by aspirin or ibuprofen
- Dehydration associated with persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
Patients come to the ER for one simple reason: to see a doctor. That’s why Missouri Baptist has a ‘See a Doctor First’ program. Between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., patients visiting our ER are seen first by a physician, usually within 20 to 30 minutes. This allows the physician to directly assess the patient’s needs and provide immediate treatment for major and minor emergencies. This program has created a number of positive patient outcomes, including quicker diagnosis, improved pain management, and faster discharges in less acute cases,” says Leonard D. Winer, MD, F.A.C.E.P. chief of emergency medicine at Missouri Baptist. If your child needs emergency care, St. Louis Children’s Hospital is located close to you, right here at Missouri Baptist. This full-size emergency room for kids is staffed by St. Louis Children’s Hospital/Washington University pediatricians and specially-trained pediatric nurses staff this unit.
Err On The Side Of Caution.
People should always err on the side of caution, “says Dr. Ockner “It’s better to come in and find out you’re okay rather than not come in and end up regretting that decision later.”
Dr. Samuel Ockner is board certified in internal medicine. He earned his medical degree at the University of Cincinnati and completed a residency in- internal medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology at Washington University School of Medicine. His specialty is emergency medicine.