There are times when you should rush to the hospital to be checked, and times when your personal doctor or local clinic are the best people to contact.

Over 100 million people go to the emergency room each year, and the number has been steadily climbing for decades. Our nation's hospital emergency rooms are often overcrowded and the wait to see a doctor can be lengthy. Many people head to their local hospital for every ache or pain they have. This can clog up the system for people who are experiencing serious symptoms. In Los Angeles, it was recently reported that the wait time in some emergency rooms can be as long as 12 hours! However, there are times when you should NOT ignore serious symptoms, and seek emergency assistance as quickly as possible.  You can read more about these situations below, as well as find out what things you can do to make the trip a bit more efficient.

When to go to the emergency room

The Hospital is a Good Decision if You Experience these Symptoms:

If you see someone loses consciousness, call 911 and get them to the hospital quickly.

If you are alone and regain consciousness after fainting, call 911.

If you have a severe head injury or suspect a concussion

If you experience blurry vision or other sudden vision changes

If you begin coughing or vomiting up blood

If you have been in a serious car accident, let the emergency room doctors check you out, even if you feel fine. You could be experiencing internal injuries.

If you may have overdosed on drugs or could be suffering from alcohol poisoning from binge drinking, you should be taken to the emergency room, especially if you lose consciousness.

If you suspect you are having a stroke, call 911 or have sometime take you to the hospital. Some of the symptoms of a stroke are difficulty speaking, sudden weakness or numbness in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body, or suddenly feeling confused or disoriented. If you are alone, call 911 for an ambulance.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, you should also be taken to the hospital to be examined. Some of the symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain, pain radiating down one of your arms, shortness of breath, profuse sweating. Sometimes the chest pain can feel more like it is in the abdominal area, or an extreme case of indigestion. Suspect a heart attack if the indigestion is also accompanied by any of the other symptoms. Again, if you are alone, call 911 for an ambulance.

If you have a severe reaction to an insect bite, food or medication, you may want to call your doctor's office first.  However, if you are feeling very ill, as trip to the hospital may be wise.

In general, you should seek out emergency room help if you experience ANY sudden, extreme pain, uncontrolled bleeding, loss of consciousness, vision problems, or major injuries.

Call your Doctor or Go to a Clinic if You Experience these Symptoms:

If you have a sore throat, congestion or other symptoms of the flu or a cold

If you suspect you have a virus

If you are experiencing nausea, with or without mild or occasional vomiting

If you believe you may have a strained a muscle

If you believe you may have sprained an ankle or, possibly, broken a bone

Your personal doctor, or the medical clinic that is recommended by your doctor or insurance, will be equipped to assess you symptoms and decide if you should go to the hospital, come into their office, or be referred to a specialist.

You may also want to keep a First Aid Book on hand.  If you don't have one, you can use this direct link to First Aid Books on Amazon to pick out the one that you think will be most helpful to you.

What to Bring With You 

People sometimes show up in the emergency room and are unable to provide the physicians there with much information. This can hamper their ability to help you. Here are some of the things you should have with you:

First, bring along another person, or have them meet you there. If you lose consciousness, or have trouble speaking, a friend or relative may be able to provide the emergency room doctors and staff with at least some of the information they will need.

In addition, try to carry the following information with you at all times, written out on a piece of paper or a small notecard. Keep it in your purse or wallet. On it, you should print: your name and address, your insurance, your doctors' names and phone numbers, emergency contact information, a list of the medications you take, any food or drug allergies you are aware of, and a short medical history of serious illnesses, surgeries, etc. Keep this information in your cell phone, too. If you are unconscious, or having trouble speaking, this information will be invaluable to the doctors who are trying to help you.

Hopefully, you will never need to be rushed to an emergency room. However, just in case, it is always wise to be prepared.

If you are interested in learning more about keeping your family safe and healthy, you may want to read one of the following articles:

Protecting Yourself from Common Causes of Cancer

Preventing Death and Injury in Children

Why Worry About Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Teens

Knowing What to Do in a Crisis Could Save a Life

First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2014 (First Aid Series)
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Everyone should keep a first aid book handy. You never know when you might need it!