When Should You Visit an Emergency Room?

We know.  We get it.  Almost everyone has an ER horror story of waiting hours to be seen only to brusquely dismissed and discharged home with “It’s only a virus!”  Or, a month after the ER visit, there arrives an unexpected bill in the mail for several thousand dollars because you were “out of network”, or your visit didn’t qualify.  It’s frustrating, infuriating, mind-boggling…and one of the main reasons we are here.  If we can (safely) keep you out of the Emergency Room and (safely) get you better, sooner (Did we mention “safely”?), we’re happy.  And you’re happy.  And your wallet is happy.

There are times, however, when you need to go to the ER.  While we are equipped with modern digital x-ray, our own lab, and experienced providers, and we can splint a simple broken bone, suture or glue a wound, drain an abscess, or even give IV fluids and medicines, ZüpMed is not an Emergency Room.  To paraphrase one of our favorite musicians, “We’ll do anything [to make you better], but we [can’t] do that!”

So, let’s make this quick!  Sick or injured, and not certain where to go?  Life-threatening conditions or situations like these demand a call to 911 or an immediate visit to your nearest Emergency Room.

When to Visit the Emergency Room:

  • Broken bones that have pierced the skin: Any broken bone, even the smallest splinter, that pokes through the skin is called a “compound fracture” and requires surgery and IV antibiotics.
  • Difficulty breathing: Is it an “anxiety attack”, asthma, or a dangerous blood clot to the lung?  Don’t try to guess.  If you feel like you can’t breathe, you need emergency help.  Go!
  • New or worsening chest pain: We’ve learned that different people present with chest pain in different ways.  It’s not always a “heart attack” or a blood clot, but it might be.  We have EKG and x-ray, but it often takes highly sensitive laboratory tests and radiographic scans to make a diagnosis.
  • New seizures or seizures that do not stop: New seizures need to have a cause.  Continuous seizures need to stop.  Enough said.
  • Non-fatal drowning: Also called “dry drowning”, any immersion in any water (including bathtubs, fishponds, and wading pools)  which required resuscitation, or for which there was any loss of consciousness, loss of memory, or any period of apnea (not breathing) must be promptly evaluated by an Emergency Department.  Kids are especially susceptible.
  • Serious burns: You’ll know.  Widespread areas of blistering or any charring requires expert burn management…and serious pain control.
  • Severe bleeding: Granted, even minor scalp wounds can bleed like crazy, but they’ll usually stop with some pressure for a few minutes.  So what constitutes “severe” bleeding?  Any bleeding from deep wounds, bleeding that “spurts”, and bleeding that doesn’t stop, even with pressure.
  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side, or sudden changes in speech, vision, or mentation (thinking): Every first-year medical or nursing student can tell you, “Time is brain!”  Get to the ER for immediate evaluation and potentially life-saving treatment.
  • Sudden, severe, persistent abdominal pain: “Gas pains” will, uh, pass.  If the pain comes on hard and fast and it persists, go get checked out.  You may need a special CT scan to look for a blood clot or a trapped hernia sac.
  • Trauma to the head resulting in unconsciousness or any loss of function: There are degrees of concussions.  If the patient was knocked unconscious for any length of time, or has a sudden loss of strength, sensation, or coordination, it’s time for a head scan.
  • Trauma to the neck or back resulting in any loss of function: The injury that keeps us parents up and worrying all night.  Trauma to the spinal cord can result in delayed injury.  Any doubt, check it out.
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy: Some “spotting” is normal with pregnancy.  For persistent or heavy bleeding, however, call your OB/Gyn who may recommend you get evaluated.
  • Vomiting blood or persistent bright red blood in bowel movements: These suggest bleeding somewhere in the GI tract.  Depending on your age and your medical history, the causes can be many.  The GI space, though, can hold a lot of blood.  Sometimes, becoming pale, cold, weak, and sweaty precedes any visible blood.  Don’t delay.

So, there you go.  Sometimes, you just need the expertise and equipment that only an Emergency Department can offer.  For the rest, there’s ZüpMed.  Let us know how we can help.