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A Trip to the ER: Help Us Help You

When to go to the Emergency Room

Some conditions for which you should go to the emergency room:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Serious traumatic injury (i.e. to the head)
  • Signs of a heart attack lasting longer than two minutes (may include pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest, and/or chest pain with lightheadedness.
  • In women, the symptoms could also include pain between the shoulder blades, pain radiating down the arm and nausea)
  • Signs of a stroke (may include weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body; sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye; loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding speech)
  • Bleeding, that in spite of direct pressure for ten minutes, does not stop
  • Instantaneous and severe pain
  • Significant shortness of breath
  • Allergic reaction to a food, medication, or insect sting, especially if breathing becomes difficult
  • Poisoning (Note: If at all possible, first contact the local poison control center; request immediate applicable advice, since some poisons must be vomited immediately while other poisons much be diluted with water. Acting quickly in this manner can save a life.)
  • Unexplained prolonged stupor, drowsiness, or disorientation
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Neck stiffness or rash with fever
  • Earaches or headaches

Some conditions that generally do not require a trip to the emergency room:

  • Colds, coughs, sore throat, or flu symptoms
  • Chronic condition (i.e. back pain, knee pain) which has occurred continuously for several months
  • Fever (if in a newborn or if remains high for prolonged period of time, call your doctor or got to the ER)
  • Minor cuts in which bleeding has been stopped
  • Sprain, sunburn, minor burn
  • Insect sting (unless experiencing difficulty breathing, which requires immediate medical attention)
  • Animal bite (call your doctor in the event a rabies shot is needed)

Emergency Department Checklist

PLAN AHEAD:

Call your primary care physician first. If you’re not sure your condition is an emergency, call your regular physician who is most familiar with your medical history. Your physician may be able to recommend the best course of action, which may or may not include a trip to your emergency room. 

Bring identification and insurance cards. Always take identification and insurance information with you to the emergency room. This will help expedite the registration process.

Know your prescriptions and allergies. Bring a list of active medications, dose and frequency, or bring the prescription containers with you. If you have allergies to medication or foods, or have specific illnesses, bring a list of these conditions so you can easily provide the information to the care provider.

Prepare this list in advance before an emergency and keep an updated copy in your wallet or purse. We have provided a pre-printed sheet in this booklet for you to use. Also, if you bring your medication bottles with you to the emergency department, don’t forget to have someone (family member or friend) take the medications home for you to prevent loss.

Know the phone numbers and the route. Be sure to include the phone number of your physician and the emergency department in your cell phone or in your list of important numbers. Also be sure the route to the hospital.

Bring a pad, a pen, and a friend. A friend or family member can help you ask questions that you may not have through to ask. Carrying a pad and pen will help you keep note of specific details such as doctor recommendations.

Patients are seen in the order of severity. Just because you arrive to the emergency room before someone else does not mean you will see a doctor first.

Patients are seen based on the severity or acute nature of their illness. Ask the admission/triage nurse at check-in if they can provide assistance with pain management, which may include ice or hot packs, pillows and blankets.

Prepare for the unexpected. If you have young children, don’t forget that you may need to provide all the necessary information and guidance to babysitters, neighbors, afterschool activity advisors, etc. If necessary, be sure the right people know if you child has special needs or severe allergies. If the child swallowed what may be poison, bring the bottle with you to the emergency room. Additionally, bring activities or toys to keep young children content while waiting.

For forms that you can complete ahead of time and keep in your vehicle to have convenient access to them should you need to go to the ER:

 

Download the Emergency Preparedness Forms

Download a pdf file of “A trip to the Emergency Room: Help Us Help You”