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Listen to your symptoms: When to seek emergency care

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 5/8/2017, 9:30 a.m.
At what point does a fever or stomachache become a medical emergency? If you are cut with a knife or ...
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Special to The Dallas Examiner

At what point does a fever or stomachache become a medical emergency? If you are cut with a knife or have the worst headache you’ve ever had, should you seek emergency care?

The answers are simple: If you think you are having the symptoms of a medical emergency, seek emergency care as quickly as possible.

“Many people experience the symptoms of an emergency, such as stroke or a heart attack, but for various reasons, such as doubt, they delay seeking care right away,” said Becky Parker, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “For many medical emergencies, time is of the essence. Delays in treatment can lead to more serious consequences.”

Emergencies are determined based on the symptoms that bring you to the ER in the first place, not on your final diagnosis. The same symptoms can mean many medical conclusions, and oftentimes it takes an experienced physician and medical tests to determine if someone has a minor ailment or something potentially life-threatening.

Urgent care centers are not substitutes for emergency care. They are an option for common medical problems when a physician’s office is closed, but more serious problems require screening and treatment at an emergency department.

Below are just a few common warning signs and symptoms of an emergency:

• Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath.

• Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure lasting two minutes or more.

• Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness.

• Change in vision.

• Difficulty speaking.

• Confusion in mental status, unusual behavior, difficulty walking.

• Any sudden or severe pain.

• Uncontrolled bleeding.

• Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

• Coughing or vomiting blood.

• Suicidal or homicidal feelings.

• Unusual abdominal pain.

“I’d much rather tell a patient that their diagnosis is not serious and send them home than tell them they should have come to the ER sooner,” Parker insisted. “It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health or the health of a loved one.”

For more information, visit http://www.emergencycareforyou.org.