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When Should You Seek Emergency Medical Care

Author: American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)(i) : Contact: acep.org

Published: 2017-04-04 : (Rev. 2020-02-26)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Listening to your symptoms will alert you as to when you should seek emergency care.

If you think you are having the symptoms of a medical emergency, you should seek emergency care as quickly as possible.

Emergency physicians want to educate every person to recognize the warning signs of a medical emergency.

Main Digest

At what point does a fever or stomach ache become a medical emergency?

If you slice your finger with a knife, or you are having the worst headache you've ever had, should you seek emergency care?

How do you know?

The answers are simple:

If you think you are having the symptoms of a medical emergency, you should seek emergency care as quickly as possible.

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 several medical tests to determine if those symptoms represent some minor ailment or something potentially life-threatening.

While urgent care centers have a role to play in the health care system, they 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 departmen.

"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."

Should I go to a doctor, walk-in clinic, urgent care center, or hospital emergency department?

The Star of Life - A blue, six-pointed star, outlined with a white border features the Rod of Asclepius in the middle. For EMS, the 6 points (bars) represent the 6 system functions: Detection, Reporting, Response, On-Scene Care, Care in Transit, Transfer to Definitive Care. The Star of Life symbol was designed/created by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US Gov) employee - Image Credit: Wikipedia (public domain).
The Star of Life - A blue, six-pointed star, outlined with a white border features the Rod of Asclepius in the middle. For EMS, the 6 points (bars) represent the 6 system functions: Detection, Reporting, Response, On-Scene Care, Care in Transit, Transfer to Definitive Care. The Star of Life symbol was designed/created by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US Gov) employee - Image Credit: Wikipedia (public domain).

Emergency physicians want to educate every person to recognize the warning signs of a medical emergency. Here are some common warning signs and symptoms:

These are just a few examples and not intended to represent every kind of medical emergency or substitute for medical advice from your physician.

"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," said Dr. Parker. "It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health or the health of a loved one."

(i)Source/Reference: American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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