The ER: When Should You Go?
When it comes to children, this question is more easily answered. If a child becomes ill or falls and may have broken a bone, we tend to err on the side of caution. But what about us? The rules become blurry when an adult has food poisoning or twists an ankle. We tend to try to "tough it out" or worry about whether or not our insurance will cover our expenses. With medical spending at an all time high-approximately $2.2 trillion a year-it's understandable that a person would be apprehensive about going to the emergency room. Read on for emergency room-worthy scenarios to help make your medical decisions easier.
You have trouble breathing, or shortness of breath. Breathing difficulty-whether sudden or chronic-should always be taken seriously. Any situation in which you experience shortness of breath should be evaluated by a medical professional. The majority of cases are harmless and easily treated. However, if the symptom comes on suddenly, you should go to the ER. This is especially so if any of the following symptoms accompany breathlessness: chest pain, if shortness of breath continues despite rest or wakes you while sleeping, fever, or throat tightness.
You have severe chest pain. Although chest pain can be as insignificant as a mild inconvenience, it can also be life threatening. Chest pain can be indicative of asthma, pneumonia, anxiety, excessive strain, or digestive problems. You should call 911 if the chest pain is crushing or debilitating; if chest pain is accompanied by shortness of breath or nausea; or if the pain radiates upward toward your shoulders and jaw. Also it is helpful to be aware if you're at risk for heart disease. If your family has history of heart attack, if you have high cholesterol of blood pressure, or if you smoke, you should take chest pain seriously.
You have a fever over 105°F (40°C). Normally, if a fever is mild and there are no other serious symptoms present, drinking extra fluids and getting rest should do the trick. But when a fever lasts for more than 48 hours in adults or older children or when a fever is over 105°F (40°C), a trip to the hospital is in store. Many worry that brain damage will occur with fever; however, this does not happen until the body reaches a temperature of 107°F. Still, an extended fever is not something to wait on.
You have a severely broken bone. Broken bones happen all the time-about 6.8 million each year in the United States. Every broken bone deserves medical attention; however, most are not medical emergencies. If you suspect that a bone is broken, contact your health care provider and find out where and when to be seen. You should call 911 if there is a bone projecting out of the skin, if there is severe bleeding, if there is a broken bone suspected in the head, neck, back, hip, pelvis, or upper leg, or if an area below the injury is pale, cold and blue.
You are having a severe allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can happen for many reasons and can have symptoms spanning from a simple rash to anaphylaxis, a potentially deadly occurrence. You should call for immediate medical attention when a person is having a severe allergic reaction of any kind. DO NOT wait for symptoms to worsen. If you have a history of allergic reactions, you should treat them as emergencies every time.
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